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

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on the Obama campaign’s tech folks, corporate blackmailing of the American people, the need for Obama to address climate change, the next steps in implementing health care reform, a parody of Tom Friedman’s writing, and a guide to evaluating economic inequality.

 

When the Nerds Go Marching In – an entertaining and informative look at the technologists who built and ran the database and software that were key to the Obama campaign’s impressive ground game.

The Corporate  Blackmailing of America is Now All the Rage – how Papa John’s is just one of many corporate entities trying to blackmail their employees and the American people into assuming the costs of health care and deficits.

No More Magical Thinking – a call for President Obama to make tackling climate change a primary focus of his second term.

Election 2012: A Win for Health Reform, But Much Work Remains - an overview of the regulations that need to be promulgated, exchanges that need to be created, and hurdles that need to be overcome to ensure the effective implementation of ObamaCare.

The Grenade of Understanding: Winners of the Write-Like-Friedman Contest – the best entries to Rolling Stone’s competition for people to parody the epically bizarre writing style of columnist Tom Friedman.

A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality - a thorough report regarding the various ways to measure economic inequality and how all of those forms of measurement are demonstrating that inequality is increasing in the US.

Why This Election Was Important

Monday, November 12th, 2012

(By Mark Bridger, cross-posted at ThatMansScope)

There are may signs that the American economy is improving — albeit slowly and fitfully. Many things can go wrong, including serious and expensive consequences of climate change and serious and expensive consequences of Congress’s inability to come to terms on financial policy in the face of the vast tax increases and spending cuts due at the end of the year. I think that some sort of compromise will probably be made, though it will likely be distasteful. In any case, in several years it is likely that unemployment will be down and GDP and the stock market will be much higher.

Had Obama lost this election, the credit for whatever upturn may occur would have gone to Romney, the Republicans, and their crazy theory of trickle-down (ugh!) economics. This would enable the Party for The Rich (PTR, formerly GOP) to claim credit, as so often happens, for policy decisions made previously by others (e.g. Obama’s “stimulus” package and the withdrawal from two wars). This in turn could easily have led to 8 or more years of conservative policies under several Republican administrations — postponing the politically progressive effects of the changing demographics for perhaps another generation.

In addition, there is a real chance that Obama has learned enough about the PTR to understand that “bipartisanship” is a meaningless term these days, and compromise by Democrats has meant, too often, capitulation to off-the-wall Republican reactionaries. We have paid a price for Obama’s on-the-job training, and it would have been a pity to lose that investment.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I like to picture Obama proposing serious recovery programs — including transfer of federal funds from the military into “clean energy” and infrastructure. I’d like to imagine him accompanying each of these proposals with news conferences and public addresses explaining and advocating for them (something he barely did for health care), while asking people to pay attention to the responses they get from the Republicans. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each time the PTR tries to sabotage his program he calls them out loudly and publicly on it? That’s what a real activist President — like FDR — would do.

Obama strikes back: Remember when Mitch McConnell said that the priority of the Republican party would be to ensure that Obama is a one term President? (If you don’t, here is the video.) I hope Obama can skillfully rub his nose in that; also, dump on the cowardly John Boehner and the vile Eric Cantor. These three guys need to be surgically neutralized and ridiculed. Maybe Obama and the Democrats can get some of their “Hollywood friends” to write the lines: subtle, humorous, devastating. Oh, and while we’re at it, what about some further examination of the record of that hood Darrell Issa? For more details, see the New Yorker article on Issa.

And then there’s the Supreme Court: need I say more?

Finally, for today: Can we at last put Sheldon Adelson behind bars? He spent maybe $100 million supporting various Republican candidates for President — first Gingrich, then Santorum, and finally Romney — in the hope that electing one of them would save him and his casinos from further investigation into violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — see this Times piece for more info — or Google it.

Whew: nice that the right person won the Presidential election a few days ago!

Celebrating Victory

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Progressives and Democrats had a really great Election Day yesterday, re-electing President Obama, winning a larger and more progressive Senate majority, defeating a number of Tea Party Republican House members, and advancing the cause of marriage equality, among other victories.  And we did all of this in the face of hundreds of millions of dollars of spending by shadowy conservative groups aided by a media that ranges from mindless pox-on-both-houses coverage to conservative apologists. In short, we have much to celebrate.

Over the next two years, we will be faced with many critical issues and policies to debate, long difficult fights to advance the progressive cause, and setbacks and disappointments.  But part of being able to win those debates and fights, and to get through the inevitable disappointments is to celebrate our successes, which is something that we progressives tend not to do very well.  Instead, we progressives are often so focused on identifying problems and working to fix them that we do not take the time to savor our victories.  Winning Progressive urges us all to temporarily resist the urge to dive right back into the next fight and, instead, take a day or two to celebrate what we have achieved in this election.

Here are just some of the victories we should be celebrating:

President Obama Re-Elected – The biggest prize yesterday, of course, was President Obama’s re-election. As of this writing, President Obama had won at least 303 electoral votes, including every swing state except North Carolina.  If, as is looking likely, Florida is won by the President, he would end up with a 335 vote electoral victory.  And as of 3:30am eastern time, the New York Times was reporting an approximately 1.8 million popular vote advantage for President Obama, with the bulk of votes remaining to be counted in Democratic states such as California, Washington, and Oregon.  While Obama’s margins are smaller than they were in 2008, yesterday’s victory is still a strong endorsement of Obama’s first term and his sensible, moderately progressive governance.

A Larger, More Progressive Senate Majority – As WP explained in early October, this election presented an opportunity to gain a more progressive Senate with the election of Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with the re-election of Sherrod Brown in Ohio.  All five of those candidates won!  And despite having 21 seats to defend, Democrats have so far lost only one Senate seat (in Nebraska), though seats in Montana and North Dakota are still to be decided.  If we win those two seats, we will end up with a 55 vote majority.  And another step towards full equality was taken with the election of the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator in our nation’s history – Tammy Baldwin.

First Electoral Victories for Marriage Equality – With our nation making steady progress towards full LGBT equality, one of the few arguments anti-equality activists had to fall back on is that marriage equality had never prevailed in a popular vote.  That claim can no longer be made, as marriage equality has now prevailed at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, and appears likely to win in Washington State.

Leading House Tea Partiers Defeated – One disappointing area yesterday was in House elections, where Democrats picked up little ground. But even there, we won some victories.  Most significantly, a number of Tea Party members – including Allen West (FL), Chip Cravaack (MN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Ann-Marie Buerkle (NY), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL) – were defeated, while the race against Michelle Bachmann is still too close to call as of 3am Wednesday morning.  Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, which was held by now-US Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) for many years, is finally back in Democratic hands with Brad Schneider’s victory. And with both House seats in New Hampshire being won by Democrats, there is not a single Republican member of the House in all six New England states.

Newspaper Endorsements for Re-Electing President Obama Keep Rolling In

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Over the past few days, more newspapers, including ones in critical states such as Ohio and Michigan, have endorsed President Obama’s re-election because of his impressive record of accomplishments and strong and steady leadership, and because President Obama has the best plans moving forward for creating jobs, promoting economic growth, and keeping our nation safe.

Below are excerpts from some of the most recent endorsements.  For excerpts of Obama endorsements from other newspapers, see our previous posts here and here.

Please take action to help win this election by sharing these endorsements with anyone you know who is undecided, commenting on and sending letters to the editor supporting these endorsements, and volunteering with the Obama campaign to help get out the vote.

 

Youngstown (OH) Vindicator – For President: Barack Obama

If there is one corner of Ohio that should vote overwhelmingly for the re-election of President Barack Obama, it is the Mahoning Valley.

We say that not for the tired old reason that the Valley almost always votes Democratic. We say it because when the question “are you better off today than you were four years ago” is asked, the Mahoning Valley can answer yes. And President Obama has earned much of the credit.

. . . .

Under the adage that all politics is local, the Valley’s resurgence would be reason enough to re-elect President Obama. But in addition, Obama has shown a political courage in tackling health care reform, a deep understanding of international issues, and a willingness to compromise — even if it was rejected by Republicans in Congress — that enhance his stature.

Detroit Free Press – Top Reasons to Re-elect President Obama

What’s the best case Barack Obama can make for re-election? Let’s start with the stunning record of accomplishments he has compiled over the last four years

. . . .

The country is safer. Its economy and its largest industry have been restored to health. And health care reform, fought out over 50 years in the U.S. Congress, has at last begun in earnest. When Republicans say pejoratively that Obama “can’t run on his record,” they’re peddling partisan nonsense and indulging a myopic fiction.

. . . .

Obama’s first term proved he can deliver at home under the worst imaginable circumstances, battling multiple crises that individually would have sunk lesser presidents; abroad, Obama has restored American credibility and influence that was frittered away by former President George W. Bush. With a refocus on job creation and long-term sustainability, his second four years could impress even more.

Toledo (OH) Blade – Re-Elect President Obama

During his administration, President Obama has provided pragmatic, steady, centrist leadership that has served the nation well. He has dealt effectively with economic recession at home and turmoil abroad, much of which he inherited from his predecessor. The stimulus he promoted — along with the auto and bank bailouts — helped prevent the recession from becoming a depression.

. . . . .

Jobless rates are still too high. But imagine what the economies of Ohio and Michigan would look like today if Mr. Obama had not presided over the federal rescue of Chrysler and General Motors as they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

That rescue was vital to Ohio, which depends on the auto industry for 850,000 jobs — one of every eight. It has preserved and created assembly and parts production jobs in Toledo and across the state.

. . . .

President Obama’s health-care reform is poised to insure tens of millions of Americans who now lack medical coverage, while reducing the federal deficit. The financial reforms he guided into law are curbing the abuses on Wall Street that contributed greatly to the national and global economic meltdown.

. . . .

In foreign affairs, the President has ended one war begun by his predecessor in Iraq, and is overseeing an orderly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. He ordered the attack that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terror attacks on this country.

Mr. Obama assembled the international coalition that helped free Libya from four decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s tyranny, without putting U.S. troops in harm’s way. The tough economic sanctions Mr. Obama and U.S. allies have imposed on Iran offer the prospect of forcing that country to give up its development of nuclear weapons.

San Jose (CA) Mercury News – Re-Elect President Obama

Barack Obama deserves a second term as president. Mitt Romney does not come close to measuring up to him as an honest, forthright and compassionate leader.

. . . .

The cool professor is a bit too dispassionate in these contentious times. He would be in a far better position for re-election if he had shown more fight. But better cool than reckless. Better understated compassion than overt disregard for 47 percent of Americans. And better to push breakthroughs in green technology and the novel concept of diplomacy to defuse world hot spots than to pretend that repeating the word “terrorism” over and over will eliminate it.

. . . . .

Obama has faced a level of personal animus unseen toward a president in living memory. It has come mainly from the right, but liberals have been little help. The fact is, Obama’s actions and positions paint him as — gasp — a classic moderate. This once was a good thing in a president. It should be again.

Look at who these men are, what they stand for and who stands with them. Barack Obama is the leader for these times. If he wins a second term, then maybe, just maybe, Republicans will return to putting country before party and recall the value of compromise. That is and always has been how America moves forward.

Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader – Re-Elect President Obama

Barack Obama has a record as president, and though he has not led us to his post-partisan promised land, he has provided steady, principled leadership during an economic crisis.

Obama’s approach — tax cuts for working people and businesses combined with stimulus spending — pulled us back from a depression. If you doubt it, look at Europe which chose austerity over stimulus and keeps sliding back into recession, while the U.S. economy slowly digs out of a very deep hole.

. . . . .

Despite Republicans’ determination to deny him any victories, Obama has a list of accomplishments that speak well for his priorities: Consumers have new protections against rip-offs by credit card and mortgage companies. The student loan program is freeing up $62 billion over 10 years by cutting out banks as subsidized middlemen

. . . .
Despite Republicans’ determination to deny him any victories, Obama has a list of accomplishments that speak well for his priorities: Consumers have new protections against rip-offs by credit card and mortgage companies. The student loan program is freeing up $62 billion over 10 years by cutting out banks as subsidized middlemen
. . . .
As for protecting America from external threats, Obama has been smart and strong, as evidenced by Romney’s embrace of Obama’s foreign policy in their last debate. That might have been just for public consumption, though; Romney has surrounded himself with belligerent neoconservative advisors who led the previous president disastrously astray.
Taking office as the economy was cratering, facing two wars and other crises abroad, and being fought at every turn by determined congressional Republicans has tested President Barack Obama.

The president has passed those tests, though not without leaving skin on the sidewalk. He can look back at a solid, if not remarkable, record of accomplishment that earns this Democrat our endorsement for a second term over Republican Mitt Romney.

No, Mr. Obama didn’t change the culture of Washington, if “culture” is the right word. He made some mistakes, disappointed many. But as Paul Glastris observed in Washington Monthly earlier this year, Mr. Obama looks good when compared to other presidents.

New York Times – Barack Obama for Re-Election

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading, we have the New Yorker’s endorsement of President Obama, interviews with our President, the threat GOP obstructionism poses to our democracy, and a profile of the man behind their voter suppression efforts

 

The Choice – The New Yorker magazine’s comprehensive and compelling endorsement of re-electing President Obama.

Obama and the Road Ahead: The Rolling Stone Interview – a wide-ranging interview of President Obama about his thoughts on the campaign, what he would do with a second term, Multiple Choice Mitt’s constantly changing views, and how Ayn Rand’s writings are not emblematic of “what’s best in America.”

Dear Republican Friends – A great explanation of why anyone who cares about our democracy should use their vote to reject the GOP’s cynical obstructionism of the past 4 years.

President Obama Releases Transcript of Register Interview – the transcript of President Obama’s initially off the record interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register.

Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth? – a profile of Hans von Spakovsky, who has been a front line leader of conservative efforts to suppress voter turnout in Democratic areas.