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“Americans Are A Bunch Of Slackers”: Carly Fiorina, As Ridiculous As Every Other Businessperson Politician

Yesterday, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that the chances that she’ll run for president are “higher than 90 percent.” And what will Fiorina be offering? Why, hard-nosed business sense, of course! Her political experience may begin and end with one failed run for Senate, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready for the job. Let’s see her answer to the inevitable question of why she’s qualified to be president:

Because I have a deep understanding of how the economy actually works, having started as a secretary and become the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world, because I understand how the world works and know many of the world leaders on the stage today, because I understand technology, a transformational tool, because I understand bureaucracies—how they work and how you need to change them and our government is a huge bureaucracy, and because I understand executive decision-making, which is making tough calls in tough times with high stakes for which you’re prepared to be held accountable.

So she knows that decision-making is about making tough calls! And does the substance of those calls matter? Nah. If someone who had success in a field unrelated to business—let’s say a great trial lawyer—said to a corporate board, “Hire me to be your CEO, even though I’ve never worked in business, because I know how to make tough decisions, and that’s what business is about, right?” they’d be laughed out of the room. That’s not even to address Fiorina’s stormy tenure at HP, which wouldn’t put her on anyone’s list of highly successful chief executives.

But there are a couple of other things about this interview I want to point out:

Well, I think we have two fundamental structural problems in our economy. One is that we have tangled people up in a web of dependence from which they can’t escape. We’re leaving lots of talent on the field. Secondly, we’re crushing small businesses now. Elizabeth Warren is right, crony capitalism is alive and well. Big business and big government go hand in hand. But for the first time in U.S. history now, we are destroying more businesses than we are creating.

So the biggest problem with the economy is the “web of dependence” we’ve trapped people in. Americans are a bunch of slackers cashing their government benefits, and if we could just cut those benefits and get them off their lazy duffs, then the economy would be supercharged. OK.

And what is this about “For the first time in U.S. history now, we are destroying more businesses than we are creating”? I have no idea what she’s talking about, but the economy constantly creates and then destroys businesses. You may have heard that idea that 90 percent of businesses fail in their first year; turns out that isn’t actually true, but the majority of businesses don’t last more than five years. Create, destroy, create, destroy—that’s how capitalism works.

And I love her attempt at Republican populism: “Crony capitalism is alive and well. Big business and big government go hand in hand.” And if you think that’s a problem, the person to solve it is the one whose sole quasi-qualification is having been CEO of a huge corporation.

But the best part of the interview is this, where Fiorina drills down to the problem that’s really holding our economy back:

So, if we want mainstream and the middle class going and growing again, we’ve got to get small and family-owned businesses going and growing again. Washington, D.C., has become a vast unaccountable bureaucracy. It’s been growing for 40 years. We have no idea how our money is spent.

I think there are two things that would help tremendously. One, zero base budgeting, so we know where the money is spent. We’re talking about the whole budget and not just the rate of increase.

And two, pay for performance in our civil service. We have—how many inspector general reports do we need to read that say, you know, you can watch porn all day and get paid exactly the same way as somebody who is trying to do their job?

There you have it. If we could only get federal employees to stop watching porn, we could really get this economy going.

I’ve got some shocking news for Ms. Fiorina. You know those tens of thousands of people who worked for you at HP? Plenty of them were watching porn, too. It isn’t just something that federal employees do.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, CEO'S, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Deliberate And Systemic”: Inequality Isn’t Inevitable, It’s Engineered. That’s How The 1% Have Taken Over

Who will look after the super-rich and think about their needs? It’s not easy for them: the 1% of the world’s population who by next year will own more global wealth than the 99%. Private security costs a fortune, and with the world becoming an increasingly unequal place a certain instability increases. It could be dangerous!

Very smartly, Oxfam International is raising such questions at the World Economic Forum at Davos, where the global elite gather to talk of big ideas and big money. Oxfam executive director, Winnie Byanyima, is arguing that this increasing concentration of wealth since the recession is “bad for growth and bad for governance”. What’s more, inequality is bad not just for the poor, but for the rich too. That’s why we have the likes of the IMF’s Christine Lagarde kicking off with warnings about rising inequality. Visceral inequality from foodbanks to empty luxury flats is still seen as somehow being in the eye of the beholder by the right – a narrative in which poverty is seen as an innate moral failure of the poor themselves has taken hold. This in turn sustains the idea that rich people deserve their incredible riches. Most wealth, though, is not earned: huge assets, often inherited, simply get bigger not because the individuals who own them are super talented, but because structures are in place to ensure this happens.

Most of us – I count myself – are economically inept. The economic climate is represented as a natural force, like uncontrollable weather. It’s a shame that the planet is getting hotter, just as it’s a shame that the rich are getting richer. But these things are man-made and not inevitable at all. In fact, there are deliberate and systemic reasons as to why this is happening.

The rich, via lobbyists and Byzantine tax arrangements, actively work to stop redistribution. Inequality is not inevitable, it’s engineered. Many mainstream economists do not question the degree of this engineering, even when it is highly dubious. This level of acceptance among economists of inequality as merely an unfortunate byproduct of growth, alongside their failure to predict the crash, has worryingly not affected their cult status among blinkered admirers.

Even the mild challenge of Thomas Piketty, with his heretical talk of public rather than private interest being essential to a functioning democracy, is revolutionary in a world which buys the conservative idea that the elixir of “growth” simply has to mean these huge extremes in income distribution.

That argument may now be collapsing. The contortions that certain pet economists make to defend the indefensible 1% are often to do with positing the super-rich as inherently talented and being self-made. The myth is that everyone is a cross between Steve Jobs and Bono; creative, entrepreneurial, unique. The reality is cloned inherited wealth and insane performance-related pay, eg the bankers who continue to reward themselves more than a million a year after overseeing the collapse of the industry.

There are always those who will side with the powerful against the powerless, and economists specialise in this. No wonder Prof Gregory Mankiw’s Harvard students walked out of his class following his ludicrous insistence that the system is not gamed for the rich. Such “theorists” flatter the rich by granting them some superpower, which is why they like rock star comparisons. In fact, international finance is peopled by interchangeable guys who are essentially just paying themselves double what they were 10 years ago. They may need to think of themselves as special. We don’t have to.

When we talk of neoliberalism, we are talking about something that has fuelled inequality and enabled the 1%. All it means is a stage of capitalism in which the financial markets were deregulated, public services privatised, welfare systems run down, laws to protect working people dismantled, and unions cast as the enemy.

Oxfam’s suggestions at Davos are attempts to claw back some basic rights, with talk of tax, redistribution, minimum wages and public services. But isn’t it rather incredible that a charity has to do this? The Occupy movement has dissipated, but we are seeing in Europe, primarily in Greece and Spain, a refusal to accept the austerity narrative that we appear to have wolfed down here in the UK.

Oxfam can appeal to the vanity of billionaires, but the truth is that’s not enough. The neoliberal project may fail not because of huge protest, but because reduced income means reduced demand. Never mind the angry proletariat, a disappointed middle-class is something all politicians fear. To stem inequality, it is imperative to stop seeing it as inevitable. It’s a choice. A choice very few of us have any say in. The poor are always with us. And now the deserving and undeserving super-rich are too? That’s just the way things are? No. This climate can also change.

 

By: Suzanne Moore, The Guardian, January 20, 2015

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Global Wealth, Plutocrats | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Alleged Socialists Are Saving Capitalism”: Why You Don’t Know Obama Has Created 4.5 Million Jobs

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

A lot of liberals puzzle over why the Obama administration isn’t getting more credit, or doesn’t do a better job of making sure it gets credit, for such good economic news. There are a lot of theories, and most of them hold varying amounts of water. But the main reason to me is fairly obvious: Liberals don’t speak as one big fat propagandistic voice on this subject in remotely the same way conservatives do when a Republican president is in power.

Before I get into all that, I want to review some numbers with you, because unless you’re a hyper-informed political junkie, I doubt you know them. How many net jobs has the economy created during Barack Obama’s presidency, and how many did it create during George W. Bush’s tenure? Notice first that I wrote “has the economy created” rather than “did Obama create/did Bush create.” I think it’s a better description of reality.

I also should note that I just measured the numbers under each president—I gave Bush the numbers from January 2001 to December 2008, and Obama the numbers from January 2009 to the present, with the following asterisk. January 2009 was when Obama became president, but he didn’t start until the 20th, of course. That was a particularly awful month, with 798,000 jobs lost. So I think it’s reasonable to give Bush, whose policies helped cause the meltdown anyway, two-thirds of that 798,000. (January 2001, by the way, was a tiny number, 30,000 jobs lost, but just to be consistent, I assigned only 10,000 of those to Bush.)

Here are Bush’s numbers: It’s 8.657 million jobs gained, and 7.121 million jobs lost, for a net job-creation number of 1.536 million. Pathetic. It’s interesting to look back over the numbers from 2001. The economy stank. The month of 9/11, we lost 242,000 jobs. Want to ascribe that just to the attacks? In August, we’d lost 158,000. The decent Bush years were 2004, 2005, 2006, and part of 2007, but even then the numbers were hoppy and inconsistent: 307,000 jobs added in May 2004 and just 74,000 in June, for instance.

And what about Obama’s numbers? I’d bet that even if you’re an Obama partisan, you think they’re not all that different from Bush’s. After all, 2009 was miserable: minus 798,000, minus 701,000, minus 826,000, and so on. The numbers went into the black in early 2010, but dipped back into the red in the summer. But remember, since October 2010, every report has been positive—the now 45 straight months of job growth that the president and his team, to little avail, crow about.

But they’ve added up, because under Obama, the economy has added 9.425 million jobs and lost 4.887, for a net gain of 4.538 million jobs. That’s a 3 million advantage over Bush. Now, 6.5 million jobs doesn’t put Obama up there in Clinton (22 million) and Reagan (around 16 million) territory. But remember—he has 30 months to go yet. Let’s say we average a gain of 250,000 a month the rest of the way. That’s another 7.5 million. And that would edge him up toward Reagan territory. And that seems conservative, if anything. If the recovery gets genuinely humming, we could start seeing months between 300,000 and 400,000 next year. It seems unlikely to happen, but God would it be hilarious if Obama, with everything the Republicans in Congress have done to keep the economy in a state of contraction, ended up surpassing Reagan.

[UPDATE: I rechecked my math this morning, and it’s a good thing I did. I had originally given Obama nearly 2 million more jobs created than the actual numbers reflect. Obviously, I want to be accurate here. I added and re-added these three times.]

But all that’s speculative. After all, there could be a recession coming, too, though most experts don’t seem to fear that much. So let’s just talk about the up to now, the 6.5 million net jobs. As I said before, I bet you didn’t know that. Why?

Two main reasons. One, the administration doesn’t go a great job of trumpeting it, and I think for good reason. Officials may feel constrained from doing too much boasting because a lot of people’s perception and experience is still worse than that. A lot of these aren’t great jobs, and the economy is still only doing real well for the top 5 or 10 percent.

The second reason is that figures on the broad left simply aren’t superficial cheerleaders. The two men who are probably the most influential economic voices on the left, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, have both been pretty harsh critics of the administration’s economic policies, as have other liberal economists. They, and less well-known but still prominent people such as Dean Baker, look at the numbers and report the truth as they see it. Democratic politicians are cheerleaders in varying degree—there’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the rah-rah end, but most Democrats don’t brag too much for the same reason the White House doesn’t.

And the media voices on the left—the folks on MSNBC, say—try to accentuate the positive in political terms, but they don’t ignore the bad news by any stretch of the imagination. MSNBC talks a lot about obstreperous Republicans, a theme to which I certainly contribute on air, but the network also offers a consistent diet of news features on and interviews with people stuck in the dead-end economy and having a hard time of it, segments that usually demand the government do more.

Now, imagine that a Republican president produced 45 straight months of job growth coming off the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Lord, we’d never hear the end of it from Fox and Limbaugh and even from CNBC. They wouldn’t care about the reality that a lot of the jobs are low wage. They’d just trumpet the bottom-line numbers as evidence of their president’s Churchillian greatness.

That’s how they are, and nothing’s going to change them. The important question now, as I said up top, is whether we’re really turning the psychic corner. Corporations have been hoarding record profits, banks still aren’t lending they way they should be, businesses have been skittish about large-scale hiring. It’s a big game of economic chicken, and it certainly has a political element. Most of these corporate titans and bankers and business leaders are Republicans. I don’t think most of them would intentionally hold the economy back because they don’t like the president, but I do think they take their cues from elected Republicans more than from Obama. When the Republicans stand up and say repeatedly that the president’s policies are failing, failing, failing, these private-sector titans hear them, and it influences what they do.

It may be that we’re finally working our way through all that. Happy days aren’t yet here again, but, once again, Democrats, the alleged socialists, are saving capitalism from the supposed lovers of capitalism who almost destroyed it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 7, 2014

July 8, 2014 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fighting Back With Common Sense”: No More Liberal Apologies As Elizabeth Warren Takes The offensive

Elizabeth Warren is cast as many things: a populist, a left-winger, the paladin against the bankers and the rich, the Democrats’ alternative to Hillary Clinton, the policy wonk with a heart.

The senior senator from Massachusetts is certainly a populist and her heart is with those foreclosed upon and exploited by shady financial practices. But she is not nearly as left-wing as many say — she can offer a strong defense of capitalism that’s usually overlooked. And here’s betting that she won’t run against Clinton.

What all the descriptions miss is Warren’s most important contribution to the progressive cause. She is, above all, a lawyer who knows how to make arguments. From the time she first came to public attention, Warren has been challenging conservative presumptions embedded so deeply in our discourse that we barely notice them. Where others equivocate, she fights back with common sense.

Since the Reagan era, Democrats have been so determined to show how pro-market and pro-business they are that they’ve shied away from pointing out that markets could not exist without government, that the well-off depend on the state to keep their wealth secure and that participants in the economy rely on government to keep the marketplace on the level and to temper the business cycle’s gyrations.

Warren doesn’t back away from any of these facts. In her new book, “A Fighting Chance,” she recalls the answer she gave to a voter during a living-room gathering in Andover, Mass., that quickly went viral. She was in the early days of her Senate campaign, in the fall of 2011, and had been asked about the deficit. Characteristically, she pushed the boundaries beyond a narrow fiscal discussion to explain how government helped create wealth.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” she said. “Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” It was all part of “the underlying social contract,” she said, a phrase politicians don’t typically use.

Warren’s book tells her personal story in a folksy way and documents her major public battles, including her successful effort to establish a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But the book is most striking for the way in which her confident tone parallels Ronald Reagan’s upbeat proclamations on behalf of his own creed. Conservatives loved the Gipper for using straightforward and understandable arguments to make the case for less government. Warren turns the master’s method against the ideology he rhapsodized. Even former treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who tangled with Warren, acknowledges in his new book “Stress Test” that she has “a gift for explanation.”

Warren tells of meeting with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a former FBI agent, to talk about the consumer agency. “After a bit,” she reports, “he cut me off so he could make one thing clear: He didn’t believe in government.”

That seemed strange coming from the graduate of a public university and a veteran of both the military and a government agency, though Warren didn’t press him then. “But someday I hoped to get a chance to ask him: Would you rather fly an airplane without the Federal Aviation Administration checking air traffic control? Would you rather swallow a pill without the Food and Drug Administration testing drug safety? Would you rather defend our nation without a military and fight our fires without our firefighters?”

How often are our anti-government warriors asked such basic questions?

But doesn’t being pro-government mean you’re anti-business? Well, no, Warren says, quite the opposite. “There’s nothing pro-business about crumbling roads and bridges or a power grid that can’t keep up,” she writes. “There’s nothing pro-business about cutting back on scientific research at a time when our businesses need innovation more than ever. There’s nothing pro-business about chopping education opportunities when workers need better training.”

Oh yes, and it really bugs her when people assert that “corporate” and “labor” are “somehow two sides of the same coin.” She asks: “Does anyone think that for every billionaire executive who can afford to write a check for $10 million to get his candidate elected to office, there is a union guy who can do the same? Give me a break.”

At the end of a long liberal era, Reagan electrified conservatives by telling them they didn’t have to apologize anymore for what they believed. Now, Warren insists, it’s the era of liberal apologies that’s over.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 18, 2014

May 21, 2014 Posted by | Elizabeth Warren | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Time To Make A Choice”: Huge Wealth Gap Caused Backlash Before And May Again

A majority of the Supreme Court decided last week that the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to pour as much as $3.6 million into a political party or $800,000 into a political campaign.

The court said such spending doesn’t corrupt democracy. That’s utter baloney, as anyone who has the faintest familiarity with contemporary American politics well knows.

The McCutcheon vs. FEC decision would be less troubling were the distribution of income and wealth in America more equal. But over the last few decades it has become extraordinarily concentrated. The richest 400 Americans now possess more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population put together.

A few billionaires are now deciding on whom to place their bets for the next presidential election. Before McCutcheon vs. FEC, they had to resort to bulky super PACs and so-called “social welfare” organizations. Now they can dole out their money directly.

McCutcheon vs. FEC coincides with the publication in English of an important book by French economist Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the 21st Century.” Piketty sees the United States and most of the rest of the world returning to the vast inequalities of wealth that were taken for granted as late as the end of the 1800s.

“It is almost inevitable that inherited wealth will dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime’s labor by a wide margin, and the concentration of capital will attain extremely high levels,” Piketty writes. Those levels are potentially incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles fundamental to modern democratic societies.

Piketty shows that for several centuries before World War I, the financial returns to the owners of capital exceeded the rate of growth of modern economies, creating a widening divergence between wealth and incomes. That divergence meant widening inequality between the owners of those assets and the people who worked for a living.

The gap was reversed in the 20th century by two brutal wars and a Great Depression that wiped out the dynastic fortunes of Europe and the accumulated wealth of America’s Gilded Age. But in recent decades, slower growth and higher returns to the owners of capital have allowed the older pattern to reassert itself.

In this sense, McCutcheon vs. FEC marks another step back toward dynastic rule, enabling the owners of vast wealth to compound their holdings through politics.

Nonetheless, I think Piketty’s analysis is way too pessimistic. He disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations have periodically fueled – such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era before World War I, and the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck‘s creation of the world’s first welfare state.

Even at this particularly dark hour for democratic capitalism, we see evidence of a resurgent populism and progressivism in the United States. The so-called Tea Party movement is, in a sense, a populist revolt against large corporations, Wall Street and the Republican Party establishment. And the Occupy movement, although apparently short-lived, has found new voice in the recent electoral victories of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Democratic capitalism might have within it a balance wheel that Piketty too readily discounts: a public that, once it catches on to what’s happening, refuses to cede control to concentrated economic power.

In turn-of-the-century America, when the lackeys of robber barons literally placed sacks of cash on the desks of pliant legislators, the great jurist Louis Brandeis warned that the nation faced a choice. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” he said, “but we can’t have both.”

Soon thereafter, America made the choice. After the turn of the century, public outrage gave birth to the nation’s first campaign finance laws, along with the first progressive income tax. The trusts were broken up and regulations imposed to bar impure food and drugs. Several states enacted America’s first labor protections, including the 40-hour workweek.

In the short term, McCutcheon vs. FEC might make it easier for today’s robber barons to take over American politics. But by inviting them to corrupt our democracy so brazenly, it also might fuel a popular backlash leading to a new era of reform. It has happened before.

 

By: Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; San Francisco Chronicle, April 11, 2014

 

 

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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