Harold Meyerson

California's Economic Stimulus

In an economic downturn -- in fact, at anytime -- no one disputes that an individual state lacks the capacity of the federal government to stimulate the economy. Not even Jerry Brown, the governor of America's mega-state, whose economy is larger than all but seven nations, disputes that.

"We've got the plan Obama has been looking for -- and if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you, too," Brown said recently. Even in a state as large as California, he continued, "we don't have the instruments of massive fiscal capacity that the United States government has."

Democrats: Bankers 'R Us

David Callahan notes today that with its conversion to an adjunct of the Tea Party, the Republicans -- historic home of the nation's financial elites -- have sent those elites streaming (and screaming) toward the Democrats. David is surely right, and, as he notes, this is the latest step in the decades-long story of Wall Street's partisan realignment -- and the corollary story, which is the Democrats' growing subservience to finance.

Republicans Want to Raise Your Taxes

One of the many things left out of the debt-ceiling deal that cleared Congress was an extension of the payroll tax cut that Congress enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus package and subsequently agreed to extend for one more year -- this year -- beyond its initial expiration date. Both the Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders said that they wanted an additional one-year extension of that tax cut included in the deal that was just past, but, in the face of Republican opposition, the proposal was dropped.

Trailing the Dead

As a card-carrying columnist for the past couple decades, I feel compelled to note the most recent index of the public's regard for my profession. In this month's Advertising Age/Ipsos Observer American Consumer Survey, released on Tuesday, my countrymen and women -- at least, those who still subscribe to newspapers -- were asked the main reason that they subscribed. A near majority, 49.6 percent, said it was for the local news. In second place, at 21 percent, were those who subscribed for the coupons.

Forget the Super Congress

A lot of punditry today is being directed at the super-committee of 12 that the debt-ceiling deal establishes, ostensibly to bring our fiscal house in order.

Government Withdraws

Let's see, now. Unemployment is above 9 percent and shows no indication of descending anytime soon. The share of working-age Americans who are even in the workforce is lower than at any time since the early 1980s, when far fewer women worked outside the home. American multinational corporations are increasingly doing their hiring overseas, where labor is cheap and markets are expanding. The wages and benefits of those Americans who do have jobs are at their lowest level, as a share of corporate revenues, than at any time in half a century. American families are more deeply mired in debt than at any time since the nation's founding. All of which means that American consumers aren't doing much consuming, and they won't be for the foreseeable future.

News From the Real Economy

Both in general and on Friday, the entirely manufactured crisis of whether the U.S. will raise its debt ceiling is obscuring a very real crisis -- the ongoing collapse of the American economy. Friday's news on the real crisis was the government's report on gross domestic product growth for the second quarter of this year, which, at an anemic 1.3 percent, was about half a percent under what most economists had been predicting and clearly not enough to create very many jobs.

Losing the Big Game

Are congressional Democrats and President Obama looking better than congressional Republicans in the current debt standoff?

You bet they are.

And how are they doing in the larger battle of ideas?

They're getting clobbered.

A new Pew Poll released Tuesday shows that by a 50 percent to 35 percent margin, the public believes the Republicans are more extreme in their positions. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the margin expands to 60 percent to 27 percent. And while Obama's approval rating has declined to a mere 44 percent, the approval rating of Republican leaders has descended to an abysmal 25 percent.

Cantor's Quandary

The trickiest two-step in Washington as the debt-ceiling deadline looms is the one that House Republican Leader Eric Cantor has been called on to perform. Even more than his boss, John Boehner, Cantor answers to two masters whose interests have diverged: Wall Street and the Tea Party.

Until the past few days, Cantor has tilted toward the Teasters, at least when in public. Walking out on Joe Biden's negotiations with congressional leaders, challenging President Obama during his meetings with those leaders, and taking a harder line than Boehner on any proposed compromises, Cantor had consistently positioned himself as the leader of the new, more radical generation of GOP legislators, the Gingrich to Boehner's Bob Michael.

Frankensteins and Their Monsters

One of the few pleasures, perverse though it be, of watching the debt-ceiling idiocy unfold has been the spectacle of the very powers who helped create the American far right -- helped elect it, and contributed mightily to its ideology -- pleading with the congressional Tea Party acolytes to support legislation (John Boehner's latest effort in particular) to raise the debt ceiling. From Grover Norquist to the U.S.

The Uncertainty Scam

Of all the reasons that business and the right adduce for the failure of the American economy to rebound, "uncertainty" is surely the most bogus.

Their definition of "uncertainty," for starters, is entirely political. They are not referring to the uncertainty that comes with the weather or to the uncertainty we experienced during the meltdown of 2008, when the banks weren't certain how many worthless credit-default swaps were held by the other banks and companies they dealt with -- an uncertainty that caused inter-bank transactions to shudder to a halt. They are not even referring to the uncertainty that attends the question of when the American consumer will start consuming again.

Lenin, Mao, and Bachmann

One of the first things that Lenin's Bolsheviks and Mao's Communists did upon taking power was to repudiate the debts incurred by the regimes they'd overthrown. Debt, shmet, the commies said. These were payments to capitalist institutions and treasuries that took bread out of people's mouths. To hell with 'em.

How the wheel has turned.

Yesterday, the Chinese government -- specifically, its State Administration of Foreign Exchange -- declared it would be an act of irresponsibility for capitalist America to default on its debt. "We hope the U.S. government will earnestly adopt responsible policies to strengthen international market confidence, and to respect and protect the interests of investors," the agency wrote in response to questions on its website.

Wal-Mart, Why?

Joe Hansen says he's "pissed," and it's no mystery why.

Hansen, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the nation's unionized supermarket workers, is dismayed that when first lady Michelle Obama meets tomorrow at the White House with representatives of retailers who have markets in underserved areas, Wal-Mart will be in attendance.

"We've been fighting Wal-Mart in New York, Chicago, and here in D.C.," Hansen told me this afternoon. "They take jobs away from workers in unionized chains -- jobs that pay decent wages and have decent benefits. No company has done more to reduce the wages and benefits of American workers than Wal-Mart."

No Class Warfare Here!

Whenever liberals note that the rich are getting richer while everyone else is either treading water or sinking, or that profits are up while wages are down, or, worse yet, that profits are up because wages are down, those liberals are invariably accused by conservatives of fomenting class warfare.

Well, goodness knows, we at the Prospect would never stoop so low. We would, however, refer our readers to the July 11 "Eye on the Market" report by J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Investment Officer Michael Cembalest, which demonstrates conclusively that, well, profits are up because wages are down. ("Eye on the Market" is a newsletter that Chase circulates to its large investors.)

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