January 17, 2013 archive

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On This Day In History January 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 17 is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 348 days remaining until the end of the year (349 in leap years).

On this day in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his farewell address to the nation warning the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex” that has developed in the post-World War II years.

A fiscal conservative, Eisenhower had been concerned about the growing size and cost of the American defense establishment since he became president in 1953. In his last presidential address to the American people, he expressed those concerns in terms that frankly shocked some of his listeners.

Eisenhower began by describing the changing nature of the American defense establishment since World War II. No longer could the U.S. afford the “emergency improvisation” that characterized its preparations for war against Germany and Japan. Instead, the United States was “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry” and a huge military force. He admitted that the Cold War made clear the “imperative need for this development,” but he was gravely concerned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In particular, he asked the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Military-industrial complex (MIC) is a concept commonly used to refer to policy relationships between governments, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. These relationships include political approval for research, development, production, use, and support for military training, weapons, equipment, and facilities within the national defense and security policy. It is a type of iron triangle.

The term is most often played in reference to the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address speech of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.

It is sometimes used more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, and the Congress and executive branch. This sector is intrinsically prone to principal-agent problem, moral hazard, and rent seeking. Cases of political corruption have also surfaced with regularity.

A similar thesis was originally expressed by Daniel Guerin, in his 1936 book Fascism and Big Business, about the fascist government support to heavy industry. It can be defined as, “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs”.

Late Night Karaoke

Congressional Game of Chicken: Fixing Filibuster Sign the Petition, Part VI

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Time is getting short to reform the filibuster rule of the Senate. The debate and vote to reform will take place January 22, the day after Pres. Obama’s inauguration for his second term and before hearing on the president’s nominees for important cabinet vacancies.

Reform the Filbuster

Sign the Petition

Filibuster Reform Advocates Launch Petition To Include Talking Filibuster

by Sabrina Siddiqui, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — With just a week left to influence the looming debate over filibuster reform, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with the progressive Daily Kos community, launched a petition on Monday to drum up support for a proposal that would eliminate the silent filibuster.

The hope is to maintain pressure for reform that would include the talking filibuster. Merkley, Udall and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have been pushing one such approach, which would still allow the minority to filibuster legislation but would require members to do so by actually standing and speaking on the floor. The Merkley-Udall-Harkin plan also seeks to streamline conference committee assignments and nominations, and eliminate the motion to proceed — a motion typically offered by the majority leader to bring up a bill or other measure for consideration.

Their proposal is competing with a scaled-back bipartisan plan introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and backed by six other senators. In a statement accompanying the petition, Merkley argues that “other proposals out there don’t go far enough, and won’t change the culture of obstruction that paralyzes the Senate.”

“Without a talking filibuster, obstructionist Senators will still be able to silently stall any piece of legislation they want without any accountability,” he writes.>

Merkley: Time is now to reform Senate filibuster rules

Filibuster reform will be first thing on the docket when the U.S. Senate convenes on Jan. 22.

Under the U.S. Constitution, a majority of each house have the power to change its rules on the first day of the legislative session by a simple majority vote. The Senate convened the first session of the 113th Congress on Jan. 3 – and the three Democratic senators introduced SR 4. Here’s what it would do:

  Clear the path to debate – Those objecting to legislation would only have one opportunity to filibuster legislation. Specifically, the ability to bring up a bill for simple debate (the motion to proceed) would not be subjected to a filibuster.

   Restore the “talking filibuster” – Those wishing to filibuster legislation must actually hold the floor and be required to actually debate the legislation. It would end “silent” filibusters where one senator quietly objects and is not required to take the Senate floor.

   Put filibuster supporters on record – 41 senators would have to affirmatively vote to continue debate, rather than forcing 60 senators to vote to end debate.

   Expedite nominations – The process for approving nominations would be streamlined, shortening the amount of time required for debate once a nomination is brought to the Senate floor.

Historically, the filibuster was intended to protect the minority party’s interests on extraordinary issues, and it was rarely invoked. But in today’s contentious political climate the filibuster has been used in record numbers (nearly 400 times in the 112th Congress) to block votes and debate, and the requirement for 60 votes to end a filibuster has proved virtually insurmountable. For example, much of the legislation organized labor has fought for to restore collective bargaining rights and to create jobs  – from the Employee Free Choice Act, to the Bring Jobs Home Act, the American Jobs Act, and many more – never received a Senate floor vote because of the filibuster threat, even though the legislation had majority support from senators.

For these reasons, SR 4 is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and some 50 progressive groups – in a coalition called Fix the Senate Now.

As our friend, Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog says:

This is my reminder – you can help hold that group together. We need strong filibuster reform, not a weaker version. Call your senator if you believe in this (click to find the phone number).

In addition, call these senators – they are the Democrats flirting with “well, I don’t really know” when the last public list of supporters was announced:

  • Baucus Max MT D (202) 224-2651
  • Boxer Barbara CA D (202) 224-3553
  • Feinstein Dianne CA D (202) 224-3841
  • Heitkamp Heidi ND D (202) 224-2043
  • Hirono Mazie HI D (202) 224-6361
  • Leahy Patrick VT D (202) 224-4242
  • Reed Jack RI D (202) 224-4642

As of last report, these are the Democratic waverers (and shame on them). Please make the calls, now and daily (if you can) until January 22.

Reform the Filbuster

Sign the Petition

Morning Jo(k)e

Treasury’s #2 Worse Than Lew

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

After Pres. Barack Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary confessed to a lack of financial expertise, you would have thought that the president’s choice for the number two spot would have been someone to fill that gap. Silly you. President Obama’s choice for Deputy Treasury Secretary is rumored to be Ruth Porat, who lobbied for Wall St. against regulation. This is her profile from Business Week:

Ms. Ruth Porat has been Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Morgan Stanley since January 2010. Ms. Porat served as the Global Head of the Financial Institutions Group at Morgan Stanley from September 2006 to December 2009 and also served as its Vice Chairman of Investment Banking from September 2003 to December 2009 and Chairman of the Financial Sponsors Group from July 2004 to September 2006. Throughout the recent financial crisis, she has been responsible for the Financial Sponsors Group ‘s coverage of financial institutions and governments globally, and she led the team advising the U.S. Treasury with respect to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Ms. Porat began her career with Morgan Stanley in 1987 in the Mergers and Acquisition Department.

According to Forbes, Ms Porat is the most influential woman on Wall St.

The Sunlight Foundation reports that Ms Porat lobbied on behalf of Wall St., meeting with regulators about Dodd-Frank rules nine times:

* 2012-03-27: Met with the Federal Reserve to express concerns on bank capital rules

* 2012-04-30: Met with the Federal Reserve to claim surcharges for Too Big To Fail banks were not necessary. Later also said regulating derivatives would hurt liquidity.

* 2011-12-14: Met with the Federal Reserve to ask for more lenient disclosure requirements for Morgan Stanley

* 2010-10-28: Met with the Federal Reserve to push back on Volker Rule and for more flexibility on Proprietary Trading

* 2010-11-02: Met with Treasury on the CFPB (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

*  2011-02-01: Met with Treasury on Capital and Liquidity (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-05-03: Met with Treasury on the Volker Rule (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-07-07: Met with Treasury on Derivatives (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-01-05: Met with FDIC on Volker Rule (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

h/t DSWright at FDL News Desk

Ms Porat is not what Obama’s critics meant when they complained about a lack of woman in influential positions in the cabinet. Really, Mr. President, a Wall St. lobbyist? Jamie Dimon must be so pleased.

Jack Lew: An Epic Failure

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sen. Bernie Sanders has already decided that he will not vote to approve President Barack Obama’s replacement for Timothy Geithner, Jack  Lew, AS Treasury Secretary, with good reason. It seems that Mr. Lew, who currently is the president Chief of Staff, does not think that deregulation had a role in the housing crash. This is Sen. Sanders’ statement:

Jack Lew is clearly an extremely intelligent person and I applaud his many years of public service to our country. I believe that he will be confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, he will be confirmed without my vote. At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position.

As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis. We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes in ‘deficit neutral’ corporate tax reform. We need a treasury secretary willing to fight to make sure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce the deficit and create jobs.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy. We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, and William Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez at Democracy Now! to discuss why Jack Lew is a “failure of epic proportions

Transcript can be read here

At Huffington Post, Prof. Black also described Mr. Lew’s role as OMB Chief during the Clinton administration, that set the stage for our current economic and financial problems, his path to Wall St. and back through the “revolving door” to the Obama administration. He calls Mr. Lew “another brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac,”

From CBS News:

   Obama is clearly comfortable bringing another ex-Wall Streeter into an administration that, beyond a recent ratcheting up of populist rhetoric, has done relatively little to rein in the financial industry.

   That, in turn, reflects the ease with which Washington hands like Lew shuttle between the Street and the Hill. Case in point: Lew’s predecessor as budget chief, Peter Orszag, left the agency and joined Citi as vice chairman of global banking. A job in politics is no longer a back-door to a lucrative job in banking — it’s a red carpet. The revolving door keeps spinning.

   The Citi alternative investments] division ultimately lost billions. As for Lew, he naturally made big bucks during his three-year stint at Citi, including a [roughly $950,000 bonus in 2009 — after the company’s federal bailout.

Lew helped establish finance policy under President Clinton. [..]

Lew’s predecessor as chief of staff was William Daley. Daley is a lawyer. Daley was on the executive board of J.P. Morgan-Chase during the crisis and before that he was on Fannie Mae’s board of directors. Daley is a member of “Third Way’s” controlling board. Third Way is a Pete Peterson ally that lobbies in favor of austerity and cuts to the safety net. It pushes Wall Street’s, and Pete Peterson’s, greatest dream — privatizing Social Security. Privatization would allow Wall Street to increase its profits by hundreds of billions of dollars in fees for managing our retirement savings. [..]

The obvious aspects of this pattern include: (1) Obama prefers to have Wall Street guys run finance (despite coming to power because Wall Street blew up the world), (2) the revolving door under Obama that connects Wall Street and the White House has been super-charged, and (3) even very short stints in Wall Street have made Obama’s finance advisers wealthy. The obvious is vitally important, and it is largely ignored by the most prominent media. The obvious aspects help explain why Obama’s economic policies have been incoherent, ineptly explained, inequitable, and often slavishly pro-Wall Street at the expense of our integrity and citizens. [..]

Prof. Black gives examples of the less obvious aspects of the pattern that compound problem of Pres. Obama appointing people who have failed, not just professionally, but ethically and morally. It is an eye opening, scathing critique of an administration that is trying to force a destructive policy of austerity and why Jack Lew is a terrible choice for Treasury Secretary.  

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

And these featured articles-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette