Five short weeks ago, Barack Obama won a decisive victory against John McCain – winning 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173 and winning the popular vote by 9 million – the largest popular vote margin ever for a non-incumbent.
After a strategy of expanding the electoral map, nine states that George Bush won in 2004, went to Obama – some by significant margins. The Obama victory changed the course of politics – from a candidate who bucked the system saying no to PAC and lobbyist money, to a disciplined campaign, tht beat expectations at every turn, building an unprecedented grassroots movement and raising record sums of money that dwarfed his Republican opponent. Campaigns in this country will never be the same.
Now comes the hard part – assuming the presidency at a time when there are more major problems facing our country and the world than at the beginning of any administration. Our economy is in shambles, affecting people at every income level. Nearly 500,000 jobs were lost during November alone. Retirement and investment accounts were shattered as the Stock Market dropped by historic proportions. Record numbers of families are being forced from their homes. Banks are hardly making loans to anyone right now. Auto manufactures and auto dealers have seen their sales drop between 30 and 40 percent.
We have a war with Iraq that needs an exit strategy and attention by our new president and his foreign policy team. There is unrest with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and a host of other countries. We desperately need to repair our Nation’s reputation around the world. And we need to do all we can to protect our soldiers overseas and our people here at home.
Nearly fifty million Americans have no health insurance, left vulnerable and one catastrophe away from bankruptcy or worse yet, death. This number will increase if we see unemployment continue to grow.
Every day that goes by, where the U.S. and other countries fail to stop the irreparable damage of global warming, is a day closer to changes in climate that we may never gain back.
I could go on and on. The point I’m making here is that our new president, the Congress and all Americans must come together to solve these problems. This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren’t progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn’t the way he thinks and it’s not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn’t, suggest that our president surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the president of all the people – not just those on the left.
As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new president to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That’s his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let’s get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end climate change and restore our place in the world. What a great president Barack Obama will be if he can work with Congress and the American people to make great strides in these very difficult times. Link.
As if a huge millions-big pool with reasonable required coverage isn’t a good enough idea (you know, spread the cost around, scale, etc.).
This is only gonna work for another couple of weeks, though, while Our Leaders still rule or are in charge or whatever….
1. Set up a large, well capitalized hedge fund. About $5B should do it.
2. The prospectus of the fund should note its purpose is to “Seek out profit opportunities via arbitraging inefficiencies in the markets and health care system of the United States.” Include standard “Socially Conscious” fund language in clauses such as Do well by doing good.
3. Launch the fund — and promptly max out your leverage. Today’s environment makes it difficult to go 50 to 1, but getting 10 or 20 to 1 should not be much problem.
4. Use the money to write Credit Default Swaps with a notational value of $3 trillion dollars. The premia on these CDS should be about 10-15% or so.
5. Rollover the cash premiums — about $350 billion dollars worth — into a national fund. Use it to buy health care insurance for all US citizens.
6. Declare that due to current credit conditions, your unfortunately must announce to your counter-parties that you will be defaulting on these CDS. Note that significant amounts of this paper are held by JP Morgan and Citi. Another trillion is held by China and Japan, with Sovereign Wealth Funds owning the rest.
7. Send out a press release announcing “systemic risk.” Tell the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chief that your imminent collapse will wreak global havoc. Apply for bailout. [more]
Can policy be both wise and aggressively partisan? Ask any Republican worth his salt and the answer will be an unequivocal yes. Ask a Democrat of the respectable Beltway variety and he will twist himself into a pretzel denying it.
For decades Republicans have made policy with a higher purpose in mind: to solidify the GOP base or to damage the institutions and movements aligned with the other side. One of their fondest slogans is “Defund the Left,” and under that banner they have attacked labor unions and trial lawyers and tried to sever the links between the lobbying industry and the Democratic Party. Consider as well their long-cherished dreams of privatizing Social Security, which would make Wall Street, instead of Washington, the protector of our beloved seniors. Or their larger effort to demonstrate, by means of egregious misrule, that government is incapable of delivering the most basic services.
That these were all disastrous policies made no difference: The goal was to use state power to achieve lasting victory for the ideas of the right.
On the other side of the political fence, strategic moves of this kind are fairly rare. Instead, for most of my lifetime, prominent Democratic leaders have been chucking liberalism itself for the sake of immediate tactical gain.
Former President Bill Clinton, who is widely regarded as a political mastermind, may have sounded like a traditional liberal at the beginning of his term in office. But what ultimately defined his presidency was his amazing pliability on matters of principle. His most memorable innovation was “triangulating” between his own party and the right, his most famous speech declared and end to “the era of big government,” his most consequential policy move was to cement the consensus on deregulation and free trade, and many of his boldest stands were taken against his own party.
The results were not pretty, either for the Democrats or for the nation.
Still, conservatives have always dreaded the day that Democrats discover (or rediscover) that there is a happy political synergy between delivering liberal economic reforms and building the liberal movement. The classic statement of this fear is a famous memo that Bill Kristol wrote in 1993, when he had just started out as a political strategist and the Clinton administration was preparing to propose some version of national health care.
“The plan should not be amended; it should be erased,” Mr. Kristol advised the GOP. And not merely because Mr. Clinton’s scheme was (in Mr. Kristol’s view) bad policy, but because “it will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”
Historian Rick Perlstein suggests that this memo is “the skeleton key to understanding modern American politics” because it opens up a fundamental conservative anxiety: “If the Democrats succeed in redistributing economic power, we’re screwed.”
In the Clinton years, of course, it was the Republicans who succeeded. And the Democrats’ failure — the failure to deliver national health care that is, not the act of proposing national health care — was a crucial element, in Mr. Perlstein’s view, in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Assessing the accomplishments of the “party of the people” after those first months of Clintonism, middle-class Americans were left with what? A big helping of Nafta. Mmm-mmm.
Fourteen years later, we find ourselves at the same point in the political debate, with a Democratic president-elect promising to deliver some variety of health-care reform. And, like a cuckoo emerging from a clock, Mr. Kristol’s old refrain is promptly taken up by a new chorus. “Blocking Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Survival,” proclaims the headline of a November blog post by Michael F. Cannon, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of Health Policy Studies. His argument, stitched together from other blog posts, is pretty much the same as Mr. Kristol’s in 1993. Any kind of national medical program would be so powerfully attractive to working-class voters that it would shift the tectonic plates of the nation’s politics. Therefore, such a program must be stopped.
Liberal that I am, I support health-care reform on its merits alone. My liberal blood boils, for example, when I read that half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are brought on, in part, by medical expenses. And my liberal soul is soothed to find that an enormous majority of my fellow citizens agree, in general terms, with my views on this subject.
But it pleases me even more to think that the conservatives’ nightmare of permanent defeat might come true simply if Democrats do the right thing. No, health-care reform isn’t as strategically diabolical as, say, the K Street Project. It involves only the most straightforward politics: good government stepping in to heal an ancient, festering wound. But if by doing this Barack Obama also happens to nullify decades of conservative propaganda, so much the better for all of us.
Thomas Frank again. What would really make me thankful would be if his columns were freely availeable without, you know, doing what I have to do….
It is possible, I suppose, that the pundits are right and the public didn’t really mean it when it elected a liberal Democrat president and gave Democrats even larger majorities in both houses of Congress. Maybe America really wants the same nice, reassuring, centrist thing as always.
But it is also possible that, for once, the public weighed the big issues and gave a clear verdict on the great economic questions of the last few decades. It is likely that we really do want universal health care and some measure of wealth-spreading, and even would like to see it become easier to organize a union in the workplace, however misguided such ideas may seem to the nation’s institutions of higher carping.
That was the sense I got when I met last week with officers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Their mood was optimistic — as well it should be, since labor unions spent some $450 million during the 2008 races, orchestrated massive voter outreach, and saw their candidates triumph.
What is coming, they believe, is not triangulation redux. This was, SEIU President Andy Stern told me, “a clear election not on small things.” Mr. Obama “talked about what people wanted to hear about,” as opposed to the culture wars. “We’ve redefined the center,” Mr. Stern said. “Universal health care is now centrist.”
Near the top of labor’s agenda is the Employee Free Choice Act, a.k.a. “card check,” the legislation that will make it easier for workers to form a union by signing cards instead of by secret ballot in the workplace. Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of last year’s version of the card-check bill and has vowed to sign it when it is finally passed by the incoming Congress.
Business interests, on the other hand, spent many millions in 2008 trying to make card check a liability for Democratic senate candidates. The strategy failed, and now they are gearing up in Washington for the coming confrontation, which one Chamber of Commerce official has already dubbed “Armageddon.”
During the campaign, you will recall, the debate over card check was supposed to be about principle, about democracy, about the sacredness of the secret ballot. However, as I pointed out a few months ago, union-certification elections often don’t meet the most basic democratic requirements. Supervisors routinely hold captive-audience meetings with workers in preparation for elections; management commonly threatens to close up shop if the union wins; antiunion employees are frequently rewarded and pro-union employees are sometimes fired.
So it may not surprise you to learn that democracy isn’t really the main concern of card-check’s opponents. It’s unions themselves. Changing the rules will make it easier to organize them.
And more unions, in turn, means higher wages, better benefits, more say for workers in business decisions, and all that other awful stuff. If Wal-Mart employees get a union, it’s a pretty fair bet they won’t have to work after they’ve punched out.
Card check is about power. Management has it, workers don’t, and business doesn’t want that to change. Consider the remarks made by Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott at an analyst meeting on Oct. 28, when he was asked about the possible coming of card check: “We like driving the car and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”
And hear the lamentations of the billionaires. “This is the demise of a civilization,” moaned Bernie Marcus, cofounder and former CEO of The Home Depot, during an Oct. 17 conference call about card check. “This is how a civilization disappears. I’m sitting here as an elder statesman, and I’m watching this happen, and I don’t believe it.”
Mr. Marcus sketched out the doomsday scenario for his listeners, with unions going after what he called the “low hanging fruit” and proceeding to organize workers in industry after industry. He had taken it upon himself to notify the nation’s CEOs of the danger, but they were not yet grabbing their guns. “This is as important as anything that’s ever happened to these companies. And they’re not reacting, and they’re not fighting. The old time fighters are gone.”
But in the class war, as in the real deal, there are always ways of motivating the yellow. “If a retailer has not gotten involved with this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to Norm Coleman and these other guys,” Mr. Marcus said, apparently referring to Republican senators facing tough re-election fights, then those retailers “should be shot; should be thrown out of their goddamn jobs.”
Mr. Marcus may snarl, but he doesn’t bark. His is the voice of a business class rediscovering its ancestral zeal for combat. Liberals should take heed. If they thought the “Harry and Louise” campaign that sank Hillary Clinton’s health-care reform was dirty, they should know they ain’t seen nothing yet.
It’s not today’s.
It’s this special edition.
Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team. [more]