Tag: economy

Stimulating family planning

January 29, 2009

There is a great op-ed, Counting Out Women, by Melissa McEwan published today in the Guardian (UK) about Chris Matthews and the general idiocy in the US media (not to mention a huge hunk of the blogosphere) about some parts of the original economic stimulus package, in which she specifically addresses the segment from Hardball that I posted about yesterday.

According to Matthews, the only thing “real people” can “see” are infrastructure projects and the jobs they create – which, as has been pointed out by Linda Hirshman and discussed by Echidne here, are jobs that will disproportionately benefit men. Funding for family planning (arguably) primarily benefits women, rendering it, in Matthews’ estimation, a pointless waste of money.

Subsequently, after Wexler explains that family planning “saves, if done correctly, an enormous sum of money down the road in the healthcare system” – Matthews ignores wholly that planned and wanted children born to non-addicted women who seek out prenatal care are generally healthier children, dismisses out of hand the importance of choice, and instead accuses Wexler (and, by extension, the Democrats) of advocating “a policy of reducing the number of births”.

[…]

“It sounds a little like China,” he notes, conflating the Democrats’ plan to provide women a breadth of reproductive choices with a state-mandated reproductive limitation which has resulted in the mass murder and abandonment of female infants.

Wexler was one of the few voices, male or female, that was allowed to even push back on this nonsense on corporate media. So I suppose good for Matthews for making that possible — but it was obviously just a way for the host to make his point, if you want to call his babbling about China and infanticide a point relative to the legislation under discussion.

It is clear that conservatives would like to set up contraception now as something controversial, even shameful. They need a new pet issue to whip up their braindead base over, to keep the coffers full and the ballots filled out as instructed from the pulpit. You wait and see.

So to all the so-called liberal boys who got right on board with the GOP’s misogynist agenda, because family planning money fills clinics instead of building them, don’t wonder later how you got played once again by the culture warriors. Just read your own archives.

Day 6: Obama caves to Republican hissy fits

January 27, 2009

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

I can’t believe that President Obama is ALREADY letting the Republicans run (i.e. ruin) his plan for an economic stimulus. Here’s an idea for putting his eloquence and now ownership of a big fat bully pulpit to use: explain to the American people exactly how family planning (more than just contraceptives) — or lack of it — impacts a family budget. In fact, most of us already know this rather obvious reality, but you can perhaps enlighten some Rethugs and the stupid media who obviously have never had to worry about money a day in their lives.

What makes me so furious is, we don’t need the Republicans to pass this package, anyway. Why, oh why are we knuckling under to the people who have already demonstrated their utter indifference to the poor – and their economic incompetence? We voted for Democrats because we didn’t want to see important legislative decisions based on right-wing memes:

Call Waxman’s office and give him an earful:
DC: 202-225-3976
CA offices:
323-651-1040
818-878-7400
310-652-3095

And contact President Obama by email here, or call:

Comments:
202-456-1111
Switchboard:
202-456-1414

I hope Pelosi turns around and gets a much bigger bill for family planning passed. It’s certainly needed, and can help families immediately and for the next several years as the economy recovers. And shame on Obama for not backing the Speaker up on this.

Mike Moore discusses auto industry bailout on Larry King

November 20, 2008

(If the video doesn’t load, you can find it here.)

Good on Larry to bring the writer/director of Roger and Me to talk about this catastrophe.

Mike’s remedy:

We’ve got a huge problem. That’s why government — this is a crisis. There’s a catastrophe about to happen and the government has to step in and say, just like Roosevelt did, this is what you’re building. This is how it’s going to be built. We’re going to have a mass transit system in this country. We’re going to bring back light rail. We’re going to build more subways. We’re going to build more buses. And we’re going to employ not only the people that are currently employed, but a lot of the people who have lost their jobs.

We need a huge works program. We need the infrastructure of General Motors and Ford and Chrysler. That’s why they can’t just — and they can’t file for bankruptcy, either, because once a company says they’re filing for bankruptcy, who’s going to buy a car from that company?

There’s no — I mean you’re like, jeez, I may not be able to get this car fixed next year if the company hasn’t come back. So bankruptcy isn’t the answer.

What I think is ironic and, again, hypocritical on the part of Congress, is that they’re not — they’re holding back. He can’t get the votes to bail out the auto companies because that’s going to help a lot of blue collar people — people that don’t have a voice, who don’t have lobbyists fighting for them on Capitol Hill.

But, boy, as soon as the banks or the financial institutions or the people that just gambled the money away — as soon as they were wanting some dough, boy, the trough just was laid out for them. Line right up, take whatever you want, sure, no problem. You know, everybody was there to vote for that.

But when it came time, now, to help the people, the working class of this country, it’s like, ah, I don’t know about that.

So, on one hand, there needs to be a program with money behind it to make sure that these people don’t lose their jobs. But we need to restructure these auto companies so they become mass transit companies and companies that build cars that are hybrid or much more fuel- efficient and better for the environment. That’s what the country needs. That’s what the world needs.

Mike ended his interview saying, “We’re seeing the end of capitalism — the end of capitalism as we know it. And I say good riddance.” Then, the next guest, Rep. Charlie Rangell starts with, “Why do you have me follow Michael Moore? ‘The end of capitalism’!” And he and Larry crack up. Now, that’s good television! [Transcript.]

As was seeing on C-Span those idiot CEOs get grilled like a cheese sandwich in the House and Senate, blasted repeatedly for flying in their private jets to come to Washington to rattle their tin cups.

Unfortunately, as th reporter who got the private jet story later told Anderson Cooper, they were completely unfazed by the outrage. They think they deserve and have earned all the money and perks and privilege they have. That’s why Michael Moore is right — the first stipulation of any bailout by the taxpayers is the elimination of top management.

Studs Terkel interview with Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry about Oklahoma City during the depression

November 8, 2008

Just by chance today I caught This American Life program on NPR when they were noting the recent passing of Studs Terkel by playing a few of the pieces from his radio series, Hard Times, which was recordings of folks who lived through the depression. The TAL retrospective focused on 1971 recordings from a mother and daughter, Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry, who lived in Oklahoma City from around 1931 till 1936.

I was literally leaning over the car radio and barely able to do my errands while listening, frustrated when I had to leave the car. So I am overjoyed to have found the full (?) Hard Times interviews with Mary and Peggy, and many others, on studsterkel.org. Bless the Internet!

Terkel interviewed hundreds of people across the United States for his book on the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1973, he selected several interviews that were included in his book to be broadcast in eleven parts on the Studs Terkel Program on WFMT radio (Chicago, IL). This gallery includes the interviews in those programs.

Terkel questions people about their recollections of employment problems, the crash of 1929, organized labor issues, “farm holidays” where crops were destroyed, and U.S. President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. He asks them how they managed financially and personally through the economic slump and what personal qualities surfaced as a result. In particular he seems interested in exploring the relationship between their personal plight and values and their awareness of national issues and society’s values.

Mary’s husband was a bonus marcher in 1931, and from what she says about him, he suffered from what we now call PTSD from being a machine gunner in WWI. She explained that there was a big oil boom in Oklahoma in the 20’s, bringing folks from all over to work. Then the crash came and depression went on and on as Hoover did nothing. The suffering was just horrendous, and these interviews really give the listener a sense of what it was like for the migrants, the homeless, the hungry children.

Mary and Peggy talk about not just poverty and hunger, but their personal feelings about despair, economic injustice, and racism. Their stories are so compelling and demonstrate why Studs Terkel, who understood their value and was so skilled at these kind of interviews, received the acclaim he did, in life as well as death.

But the stories are most inspiring because of the examples of kindness and community spirit that were so often found with, or maybe because of, the overwhelming want. Peggy says that there was a community garden in OKC where the residents of a Hooverville grew fresh food. And some of the better off people did share what they could. Mary tells how a black family gave them a ride, and, since they could not eat in restaurants because of Jim Crow laws, they brought food with them, stopping to prepare and eat it. When Mary describes that meal that was shared with her, you can still hear how fondly she remembers it, how good the chicken, sweet potatoes and biscuits tasted.

You know people talk with tangents that are sometimes more interesting that their main point, and in one such aside, Mary tells of being in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott, and seeing Martin Luther King Jr. being beaten on the sidewalk near the jail. This episode isn’t depression era, but helps to give you an even broader sense of her fascinating life.

Peggy (the daughter) at one point makes one of the most moving cases against racism I’ve ever heard, while recounting her own transformation in thinking about blacks.

And she talks about how much she identified with the epic story of noble migrants, The Grapes of Wrath.

… just like my life. I never was so proud of poor people before … Just reading that book has made me a better person. I think that’s the worst thing our system does to people is to take away their pride, and it prevents them from being a human being. And they’re wondering why Harlem and why Detroit and they’re talking about troops and ‘law and order.’ You’ll get law and order in this country when people are allowed to be decent human beings and be able to walk in dignity…

Well, I could go on and on, but your time would be better spent listening to the recordings yourself. The Hard Times page has many I’ll explore later, but here are the ones of Mary Owsley and Peggy Terry (they aren’t in order on the page like they are here):

Straight talk on economy — from Obama

September 17, 2008


(transcript of video here)

Obama spoke about the current economic crisis in Colorado yesterday; video and text of speech as prepared at link.

And, for those who keep saying that Obama hasn’t been giving “specifics” of his policies, please see his web page on the economy, and, last but far from least, the speech he gave exactly one year ago today — literally on Wall Street — addressing the dangerous situation with our unregulated markets directed only by greed (also with video).

There are a number of lessons that we must learn from this going forward. We know that much of this could have been avoided if the market operated with more honesty and accountability. We also know we would have been far better off if there were greater transparency and more information had been available to the American people.

To that extent, I believe there are a few steps we should take to prevent future crises of this kind and restore some measure of public trust in the market:

First, we need more disclosure and accountability in the housing market. To ensure that potential homeowners aren’t tricked into purchasing loans they can’t afford, I’ve proposed updating the current mortgage rules to establish a federal definition of mortgage fraud and enact tough penalties against lenders who knowingly act in bad faith. I’ve also proposed a Home Score system that would create a simplified, standardized metric for home mortgages, sort of like the APR. This would empower Americans to make smart decisions by allowing prospective buyers to easily compare various mortgage products so they can find out whether they can afford the payments. And I believe we should finally enact the meaningful mortgage disclosure laws that the mortgage industry has been lobbying against for far too long.

Second, I believe that if we hope to restore trust in the markets, we must be able to trust the judgment of our rating agencies. The failure of government to exercise adequate oversight over the rating agencies will cost investors and public pension funds billions of dollars – losses we have not yet fully recognized. We cannot let the public trust be lost by a conflict of interest between the rating agencies and the people they’re rating. As Arthur Levitt recently reminded us, this happened when rating agencies continued to give a rosy outlook for Enron despite its impending bankruptcy. And of course we saw it this year when subprime mortgage loans continued to receive strong ratings despite repeated warnings of the instability of the mortgages and the impending slowdown of the housing market.

Here’s the real danger – if the public comes to view this like the accounting analyses of Enron, the markets will be ravished by a crisis in confidence. We must take steps to avoid that at all costs, and that is why I believe there should be an immediate investigation of the relationship and business practices of rating agencies and their clients.

The third thing we need to do is look at other areas in the market where a lack of transparency could lead to similar problems. Many of the people who hold these subprime mortgages are now shifting their debt to credit cards, and if they do not understand the commitments they’re taking on, or are subjected to predatory practices, this could fester into a second crisis down the road. That’s why I’m proposing a five-star credit card rating system to inform consumers about the level of risk involved in every credit card they sign up for, including how easily the company can change the interest rate. If more Americans were armed with this kind of information before they purchased risky mortgage loans, the current crisis might not have happened. Now that so many are in debt, we shouldn’t let the same lax standards create another.

Finally, while it’s not my place to comment on the actions of the Fed, I have heard many of you say that you hope for a sizable rate cut tomorrow to soothe the market turmoil.

But I also know that there are nearly 2.5 million Americans who may lose their homes no matter what happens tomorrow. And so for those institutions that are holding these mortgages, I ask them to show some flexibility to folks trying to sell or refinance their houses. They are in the same liquidity pinch as companies are, but they don’t have the same resources available to protect themselves.

Now, in addition to these immediate steps, I also believe there is a larger lesson to be learned from the subprime crisis.

In this modern, interconnected economy, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. The decisions that are made in New York’s high-rises and hedge funds matter and have consequences for millions of Americans across the country. And whether those Americans keep their homes or their jobs; whether they can spend with confidence and avoid falling into debt – that matters and has consequences for the entire market.

We all have a stake in each other’s success. We all have a stake in ensuring that the market is efficient and transparent; that it inspires trust and confidence; that it rewards those who are truly successful instead of those who are just successful at gaming the system. Because if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that we can all suffer from the excesses of a few. Turning a blind eye to the cronyism in our midst can put us all in jeopardy. And we cannot accept that in the United States of America.

So I promise you this. I will be a President who believes in your success. I will value your contribution to this country and I will do what I can to encourage it, because I understand that how well you do is inextricably linked to how well America does. And I will always be a strong advocate for a market that is free and open.

But today I am asking you to join me in saying that in this country, we will not tolerate a market that is fixed. We will not tolerate a market that is rigged by lobbyists who don’t represent the interests of real Americans or most businesses. And we will not tolerate “what’s good for me is good enough” any longer – because the only thing that’s good enough is what’s best for America.

I am also asking you to join me in doing something else today. I am asking you to remind yourselves that in this country, we rise or fall as one people. And I am asking you to join me in ushering in a new era of mutual responsibility in America.

Now, that’s judgement, experience, forsight and change you can believe in!

What was John McCain — by his own admission the ultimate de-regulator, who for his entire political career has supported bills that eliminated any teeth from government oversight agencies — proposing yesterday?

[W]hen I am president […] when any Wall Street operator abuses the trust of the public, then they will face the consequences, and they will have a fight on their hands with the president of the United States.

I will fight to reform Wall Street and to protect the savings and pensions of the American people. I will make sure that Washington works for your interests, and not the special interests. I will fight to make it easier for small business owners everywhere to grow and hire. I will fight to make sure you can afford a home loan or a student loan or a small business loan. I will fight to make sure we create more jobs here at home and prosperity for all Americans.

Emphasis mine. What do you suppose his real message was to his war-cheerleader fans?

And let’s look at McCain’s activities (just over) a year ago: Facing down a group of high-schoolers worried about their country and their future. Maybe you heard about it — he called one of them “a little jerk” for asking about his age, and had no idea what “LGBT” meant — but that didn’t stop him from supporting DADT (he knew what those initials meant) and a ban on same-sex marriage.

Apparently, McCain wants to fight, alright — a war of cultural distractions and flip-flopping policy positions.

Update: Adam B at Daily Kos reminds us about Prof. David Currie’s reading of the Constitution, available for listening online or on your favorite media player. Adam calls our particular attention to Article II.

And while Big Orange, check out this post that showcases a roundup of writers saying what I was saying about McCain’s sudden reversal on market regulation.

Black Monday

September 15, 2008

Perfect framing for this attack of McCain’s cluelessness on the economy on this historic day: played on Fox News, with the tanking numbers from Wall Street on the visual beside Biden.

h/t The Field

And, cluelessness isn’t even McCain’s worst factor on this issue. His go-to guy on economic issues is Phil Gramm, who, more than almost anyone, is responsible for what happened to Lehman Brothers.

If McCain wants to hold someone accountable for the failure in transparency and accountability that led to the current calamity, he should turn to his good friend and adviser, Phil Gramm.

As Mother Jones reported in June, eight years ago, Gramm, then a Republican senator chairing the Senate banking committee, slipped a 262-page bill into a gargantuan, must-pass spending measure. Gramm’s legislation, written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, essentially removed newfangled financial products called swaps from any regulation. Credit default swaps are basically insurance policies that cover the losses on investments, and they have been at the heart of the subprime meltdown because they have enabled large financial institutions to turn risky loans into risky securities that could be packaged and sold to other institutions.

Krugman on health care and the economy

April 22, 2005

The brilliant Paul Krugman is the saving grace of the New York Times. An economist/academic that sees the big picture and writes clearly and passionately. He’s doing a series on the completely counter-productive health care system in this country. And, I’ve found a complete online archive of Krugman’s work (the Times puts a price on its content after two weeks). Yay! I love the internets.

The health care columns (so far):

Ailing Health Care

The Medical Money Pit

Passing the Buck