Tag Archives: congress

The New York Times Covers the TPP: A Commentary

Wikileaks did us all another service yesterday by releasing the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): Investment Chapter Consolidated Text,” and collaborating with the New York Times to get the word out. Jonathan Weisman wrote the story for the New York Times. Apart from providing a very high level and very selective summary of what the chapter says, the article contains talking points used by proponents and opponents of the TPP. I think a close commentary on the article and associated issues would be useful. So here it is.

An ambitious 12 nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

Why are we negotiating the TPP at all? Why is it the business of the Representatives of the people of the United States in Congress to support agreements that will mitigate the political risks borne by American businesses who chose to invest in other nations, as well as the political risks borne by foreign corporations, who choose to invest in the United States? Why is it their business to provide protection against such risks to foreign corporations beyond the protections we provide to our own corporations?

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Thoughts About the Trans-Pacific Partnership

During a recent Amy Goodman interview of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, on her Democracy Now show, Wallach neatly summarized the problems of progressives with the TPP:

Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans’ wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren’t enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there’s rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there’s a ban on “Buy Local,” “buy domestic” policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back. Plus, we would see more offshoring of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. So the big battle is over fast track, the process. And right now, thanks to a lot of pushback by activists across the country, actually, they don’t have a majority to pass it. But there’s an enormous push to change that, and that’s basically where we all come in.

I, too, am bothered by all the things Wallach mentioned and I, too, am strongly opposed to the TPP, and the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which would impose similar agreements and rules to the TPP. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to add a few other concerns to the ones she mentions.

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Essay Contest for Congress

By J.D. Alt

alt-ryanI’d like to propose an Essay Contest that might inform us better than any news talk show or presidential debate what we’re up against with our National Budget—and what might be the best course of action we should consider. Everyone in Congress should be required to participate, governors and state legislators who might become future congressional leaders should be encouraged to join in, and op-ed economic analysts invited to submit. The essays would be posted on a Congressional website established specifically to enable the public to vote on the best explanation of the topic. The topic I propose is this:

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Peterson/CBO Beat for Austerity Goes On!

By Joe Firestone

Recently, I’ve been writing about oligarchs advocating for entitlement cuts and austerity. I’ve discussed attacks on entitlement benefits for the elderly from Abby Huntsman (of MSNBC’s The Cycle) and Catherine Rampell (a Washington Post columnist), both the children of well-off individuals. These posts have come in the context of the English language release of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and the more recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page using quantitative methods and empirical data to explore the question of whether the US is an oligarchy or a majoritarian democracy. They conclude:

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More Misdirection from Rampell in the Service of Generational War

By Joe Firestone

In my last post, I took issue with a recent column by Catherine Rampell, who tries to make the case that seniors haven’t paid for their Social Security and Medicare because they “generally receive” more in benefits out of these programs than they pay into them. Rampell relies on an Urban Institute study to make her case. Since that post, she’s offered another that replies to some of the questions raised by commenters on her earlier effort. I’ll reply to that new post shortly, but first I want to present key points emerging from my analysis of Federal monetary operations in my reply to her earlier post. See that post for the full argument.

First, once Congress mandates spending, there is no way that the Treasury can be forced into insolvency or an inability to pay its obligations as long as it is willing to make use of all the ways it can cause the Fed to create reserve credits in Treasury spending accounts which can then be used for its reserve keystroking into private sector account activities that today represent most of the reality of Federal spending.

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Misdirection: Rampell Views Entitlements Through the Generational War Lens

Some of the favored children of the economic elite who have a public presence, work hard in their writing and speaking to divert attention from inequality and oligarchy issues by raising the issue of competition between seniors and millennials for “scarce” Federal funds. That’s understandable. If millennials develop full consciousness of who, exactly, has been flushing their prospects for a decent life down the toilet, their anger and activism might bring down the system of wealth and economic and social privilege that benefits both their families and the favored themselves in the new America of oligarchy and plutocracy.

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The Village Still Ignores the Most Important Point

By Joe Firestone

In recent posts I reviewed two commentaries by Abby Huntsman on Social Security and other entitlements, also noting points made in other critiques of her narratives. Abby’s commentaries are here, and here, and my critiques are here and here. The most important point I emphasized in my two rebuttals is that there are no fiscal solvency or sustainability issues related to Social Security, or other parts of the safety net, but that the issues involve only the willingness of Congress to appropriate entitlement spending, and either the removal of current constraints on Treasury to spend appropriations such as the debt limit, or the willingness of the Executive Branch to use its current legislative authority either to a) generate sufficient seigniorage from platinum coins to spend such appropriations; or b) use a type of debt instrument, such as consols, which aren’t counted toward the debt limit.

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An Even Better Way to Get Money Out of Politics

By Joe Firestone

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on a simple solution to the problem of getting money out of politics. I said then:

If the election you’re voting in is virtually a two candidate contest, then vote for the candidate, who, in combination with her/his supporters spends the least amount of money. In a virtual multi-candidate contest, do the same thing.
That’s the proposal, in its simplest form. Its objective is to reverse the current race to the bottom in buying elections by ensuring that there would be a powerful incentive to start a race to the top to raise and spend as little money as possible in campaigns. That incentive is that if you spend too much you lose, pure and simple.
The other rationale for the rule is that the person who raises and spends the least amount of money for a campaign, will generally be the person who is “less bought” by wealthy people, financial interests, and large corporations. Eventually, if the rule took hold it would no longer be said of the Congress that “the banks own the place.”

I cross-post at a number of sites, and at Daily Kos I received a comment from “Musial,” which being of a certain age, engaged me immediately. The comment advised me to read the “money outta politics” solution, which “Musial” felt was superior to my own. It says:

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Rotten Title, Great Summary of My Talks on MMT

By Stephanie Kelton

As much as I dislike the title of this article from Advisor Perspectives, the essay itself is a good overview of the talks I’ve been giving at national, regional and chapter meetings of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) over the past year-and-a-half. I wasn’t aware that Veras was working on a piece and didn’t see it until it was published (or I would have implored him to change the title!). I wanted to share the piece but only after this word of caution: I would not and did not say, “deficits don’t matter,” as you’ll discover if you read the entire piece. This is a touchy subject for MMTers, who’ve been (wrongly!) accused of taking the position that “deficits don’t matter.” Randy Wray made the MMT position crystal clear years ago, and I told Dan Jamieson the same thing when he interviewed me for a similar piece in Investment News:

InvestmentNews: Are MMT theorists saying deficits don’t matter?

Ms. Kelton: Deficits do matter, but not in the way people think.

So with that flashing neon disclaimer in place, here’s Veras’ article from Advisor Perspectives.

The President’s Leverage: He Can Go Platinum

By Joe Firestone

Well, that’s over. The President had a chance to go “over the cliff,” bargain hard with the Republicans, get more of what he said he wanted at the price of perhaps some more days of crisis with extreme pressure building on the Republican caucus, and he blinked. I don’t much care that he blinked on tax rates for the top 2% and on inheritance taxes, because tax rate increases for purposes of deficit reduction simply aren’t needed for getting deficit spending needed to create jobs, as the rest of this post will show. Here’s what I care about: Continue reading