The Fantasy Cabinet Game

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

(By Mark Bridger, cross-posted at ThatMansScope)

In the NYTimes recently, columnist Joe Nocera discussed his choices for Obama’s new cabinet. Below is a summary of his choices for some of these posts:

TREASURY:     Tim Geitner → Sheila Bair
STATE:              Hillary Clinton → Bill Clinton
ATTY.GEN:       Eric Holder → Ken Feinberg
DEFENSE:        Leon Panetta → David Petraeus
ENERGY:         Steven Chu → Fred Krupp
EDUCATION:  Arne Duncan → Randi Weingarten (AFT)
S.E.C.:              Mary Schapiro/Elisse B. Walter → Sean Berkowitz

For the record, here are the remaining ones: AGRI, COMMERCE, HLTH&HUM. SERV., HOMELAND SEC., H.U.D., INTERIOR, LABOR, TRANSP., VETERANS SERV.

I am in favor of Sheila Bair for Treasury.  She is a Republican who is a firm believer in controls over Wall St and who just finished a 5-year term as chair of the F.D.I.C. to which she was appointed by George Bush. Since Elizabeth Warren is currently occupied as Senator from Massachusetts, Bair is my first choice.

Bill Clinton as Secretary of State is not a great idea. It is unclear how interested he would be in the day-to-day functioning of the office, or how closely he could work with Obama. I think he might be better as special envoy to the Middle East. At the moment Susan Rice seems to be Obama’s choice for State, and I don’t see anything objectionable in her filling the role; also, Republican opposition to her seems to be moderating.

I am not that happy with Eric Holder who seems to embrace the disastrous “War on Drugs” (but then, so does the President). He also didn’t go out of his way to prosecute central figures in the 2008 economic collapse. Ken Feinberg is really a cipher on issues other than disbursing money to victims of 9-11 and the BP oil spill. I have no special knowledge of other deserving nominees.

David Petraeus for Defense seems quixotic. (If we were going to install well-known philanderers in the cabinet, I would have proposed Eliot Spitzer for Attorney General — but see below.) In any case, it is my understanding that someone who served so recently in the military is ineligible to be Secretary of Defense. Also, Panetta seems to have done a decent job so far.

I for one think that Steven Chu has done a fine job in Energy, so unless he wants out I think he should continue. It never hurts to have someone who actually knows some science in this position. Fred Krupp, as head of the Environmental Defense Fund has some enviro-cred, but he is also a big proponent of fracking, a technology whose dangers have not been investigated nearly enough.

For Education I think that the president of the American Federation of Teachers is too provocative, even if she is a very good person (which she seems to be): I doubt that she could be confirmed. Fortunately, Obama could put forward Diane Ravitch who has been a very pointed and knowledgeable critic of just about everyone and everything in the field. For a long time she was just about the only really thoughtful voice on the right in matters educational. Recently she has changed her mind about many things and has become a very progressive voice. I have read a lot of her essays and found them quite impressive.

For S.E.C. I think that Eliot Spitzer would probably be the best choice if he can overcome the fallout of his sex scandal. Sean Berkowitz, though, is not a bad choice: he was one of the major prosecutors in the Enron case, who helped to nail Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay. He could arguably be better as AG than Ken Feinberg.

Anyway, I’d like to invite readers of this blog to make a case for their favorites for any of these cabinet positions (and SEC). Please use the “Comments” section directly below. I’ll collect those that seem most convincing and devote at least one blog to them.

As we “go to press”: Sarah B. reminds us not to forget former senator Russ Feingold (AG?) and former Sec. of Labor Robert Reich (Council of Economic Advisors?). SB has named this the “The Fantasy Cabinet Game”.

Which reminds me of the other “good” Bob: Bob Kuttner (and not the “bad” Bob: Rubin). He should also be on the Council of Economic Advisers.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles about how Rep. Issa’s “Fast and Furious” investigation is a witch hunt, supply-side economic theory does not work in reality, the federal government will pick up the costs of health care reform’s Medicaid expansion, the importance of liberals reclaiming our nation’s historical narrative, and the benefits of the earned income tax credit.


The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal – a detailed investigation shows that the alleged gun walking that Rep. Darrell Issa is accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of failing to stop never actually occurred.  Instead, ATF agents say that the biggest hurdle they face in stopping gun running from Mexico is our nation’s weak gun laws.

Three New Critiques of Arthur Laffer’s Supply-Side Model Show Tax Cuts as Junk EconomicsThree new studies showing that income and estate tax reductions do not lead to the economic growth that conservatives claim they will.

Federal Government Will Pick Up Nearly All Costs of Health Care Reform’s Medicaid Expansion – a study showing that the federal government would pick up 93% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act.  Unfortunately, it is widely believed that after the Supreme Court limited the penalty on states that decline to go along with the Medicaid expansion that a number of states, mostly in the South, will likely decline to expand Medicaid.

Why History Matters to Liberalism – an essay arguing that it is critical to the future of liberalism that we push back against the false conservative claim that our nation was formed almost entirely on ruggedly individualistic values.

Studies Show Earned Income Tax Credit Encourages Work and Success in School and Reduces Poverty – a summary of a series of studies showing significant benefits from the earned income tax credit.


Quick Hits – Reproductive Freedom, Voting Rights, and Economic Fairness

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Here are a few good progressive stories from the past few weeks that we’d like to briefly highlight:

Obama Administration Standing Up For Reproductive Freedom

Jan. 22 was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s right to choose.  President Obama marked the occasion with an affirmation of his strong support for reproductive freedom:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.  I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.

Two days earlier, the Obama Administration, standing up to strong opposition from conservative religious organizations, finalized rules under the Affordable Care Act to require that contraception be included as a preventive health service that insurance policies must cover with no co-pay.  This will help millions of women afford access to birth control and also save money by reducing unintended pregnancies.

Attorney General Eric Holder Joins the Fight for Voting Rights

As we’ve described previously, conservatives are engaging in a concerted effort to restrict voting in a transparent attempt to reduce voting by the poor, students, and people of color.  On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder took this effort head on in a speech in Columbia, South Carolina explaining how voting rights are at the core of the civil rights that Dr. King fought for.  The entire speech is worth reading, but here is an especially powerful excerpt:

The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of governance, it is the lifeblood of our democracy.   And no force has proved more powerful – or more integral to the success of the great American experiment – than efforts to expand the franchise.  Let me be very clear: the arc of American history has bent toward the inclusion – not the exclusion – of more of our fellow citizens in the electoral process.  We must ensure that this continues.

As [NAACP] President [Benjamin] Jealous and others have discussed today – despite our nation’s record of progress, and long tradition of extending voting rights – today, a growing number of citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that Dr. King fought throughout his life to address and overcome.   In recent months, in my travels across this country – and here in South Carolina – I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who – often for the first time in their lives – now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals; and that some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.

Let me assure you: for today’s Department of Justice, our commitment to strengthening – and to fulfilling – our nation’s promise of equal opportunity and equal justice has never been stronger.

The location of the speech in South Carolina was especially important given that AG Holder last December blocked South Carolina’s new law requiring people to present photo identification in order to vote because such law would disproportionately impact minority voters.  In a previous speech on the topic of voting rights, AG Holder announced that his office is currently reviewing similar voting laws in Texas, Florida, and other states.

The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers on Economic Fairness and Inequality

President Obama’s State of the Union address and earlier speech in Osawatomie, Kansas made clear that Obama intends to make economic fairness and reducing inequality the core issue in his re-election campaign.  A recent speech by Alan B. Krueger, President Obama’s relatively new Chair of the Administration’s Council on Economic Advisers, provided further detail on how the Administration is seeking to reduce economic inequality both as a matter of fairness and because of the negative impact that inequality is having on our economy as a whole:

My theme in this talk is that the rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades has reached the point that inequality in incomes is causing an unhealthy division in opportunities, and is a threat to our economic growth. Restoring a greater degree of fairness to the U.S. job market would be good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for the country.

. . . .

Lastly, I want to emphasize that restoring more fairness to the economy would be good for all parts of American society. This is not a zero-sum game. The evidence suggests that a growing middle class is good for the economy, and that a more fair distribution of income would hasten economic growth. Businesses would benefit from restoring more fairness to the economy by having more middle class customers, more stable markets, and improved employee morale and productivity.

The entire speech is worth a read, as it is filled with statistics and ideas regarding the amount of economic inequality in the US, the lack of income mobility, and the causes of, impacts of, and solutions to such inequality.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on retiring progressive Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, a venture capitalist calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, how Attorney General Holder needs to take action to stop sexual abuse of immigrant detainees, the failure to journalism on energy issues, and the role of for-profit corporations in the education “reform” movement.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page.

Barney Frank Leaves His Mark on Economic Policy, Gay Rights Movement - an overview of the impact of retiring Democratic Congressman Barney Frank who, while far from perfect, did much to advance the progressive cause.  See also Thank You, Barney Frank, for a description of Congressman Frank’s role in getting transgendered rights included in legislation promoting LGBT equality.

Raise Taxes on the Rich to Reward True Job Creators - a venture capitalist explains how middle class consumers, not the wealthy elite, are the real job creators, and why increasing taxes on the rich to help the economic position of the middle class would be good for the economy.

Immigrant Detainees: The New Sex Abuse Crisis - a report on rampant levels of sexual abuse of immigrant detainees by detention guards, and why Attorney General Eric Holder needs to ensure that regulations implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act are applied to immigrant detention centers.  

Why Energy Journalism is So Bad - an article on how and why the media does such a poor job reporting on energy issues, and some tips about to read such reporting.

How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools - an investigative report about how numerous for-profit corporate interests have hijacked the education “reform” movement.