1) I certainly agree that there’s something distinguishable between right-wing libertarianism and the First Amendment views of Mr. Greenwald, the ACLU, and Eliot Spitzer. The support for public financing is an extremely important difference, and I would be very curious to know what types of public matching or leveling, if any, Mr. Greenwald believes would be consistent with the First Amendment.
Five years after Wall Street crashed the economy by irresponsibly securitizing and peddling mortgage debt, the financial industry is coming under growing scrutiny for its shady involvement in student loan debt.
One of the many parts of the financial sector that the crisis exposed as desperately in need of reform was the 401(k) industry. In 2008 alone, the securities industry lost over $2 trillion in workers’ hard-earned 401(k) and IRA savings. This loss was problematic enough for the millions of American families who watched their balances plunge in horror, but the number that really drives home the need for reform is the more than $120 billion that the industry took home in compensation and commissions the same year it lost $2 trillion in savers’ wealth.
Now that we know that the president will not be someone who pledged openly to repeal Dodd-Frank, it's time to look forward to the agenda for the next four years. One thing is certain: The job of reforming Wall Street is far from finished. The most profitable investments for the big banks continue to be Washington lobbyists chipping away at reform and litigators challenging every major rule in court.
I see three topics on the agenda: Unfinished Business; Defending Won Territory; and New Initiatives. A few of the major agenda items for each are described below.
The tax cuts enacted by Congress under George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 stand as the greatest achievement ever for small government conservatives. While a good chunk of Reagan's historic tax cuts had been cancelled out before he even left office, Bush's tax cuts have lived on and on, draining trillions from the U.S. Treasury.
These cuts have not, as hoped, triggered deep cuts in government spending and "starved the beast." Instead, they have simply fed the debt.
There’s no question that Tuesday’s elections brought some significant wins for working people. I’m not talking about the candidates—although national political reporters are busy acknowledging Obama’s reelection as a clear sign that “labor ain’t dead” and pondering the policy implications of victories for pro-worker politicians like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown—but rather thinking about the ballot initiatives, where in several votes across the country voters spoke out clearly in favor of raising workplace standards and preserving rights on the job.
With the election over, pundits and other race watchers are attempting to write the final word on the most expensive, secret, and billionaire-friendly election in history. Many are starting to take the position that in the end, the $6 billion in spending didn’t matter much because swing states voters got so saturated with ads that they tuned out. If the balance of power doesn’t change, some are even saying, that tsunami of spending will have been for naught.
These folks are missing the point. In the game of high-dollar financing of political campaigns, it’s not about the spending—it’s about the giving. No matter how a campaign spends the check written by a millionaire donor, that millionaire donor has purchased exactly what he or she wanted: influence.
This month’s employment report points to a trend of job growth crawling just barely above our low expectations for recovery, which is good news for Millennials returning to the labor pool after years of flagging participation. And—surely this counts for something—we were spared a repeat of September’s politicized BLS paranoia.
Today's job numbers show that the economy continues to creep in the right direction—but also that job creation will remain a paramount challenge over the next few years. The problem is not just the millions of working-age adults who remain unemployed or under-employed. It's also that the labor force is growing every month by some 100,000 would-be workers, according to the Hamilton Project—or over a million people every year who need work.
With millions of Americans struggling to recover from Sandy, few people question that government has a central role to play in rebuilding battered communities in New Jersey and other states.
Natural disasters are often highpoint moments for the public sector, reminding us of the power of common institutions that allow citizens to help each other in times of need. The residents, say, of sunny Los Angeles needn't do anything special at this moment, because they have already been doing something—helping fund FEMA with their tax dollars so that it has the capacity to respond to unexpected events like a "Frankenstorm."
It is widely assumed that partisanship, particularly of the rabid variety, is detrimental to the political process and harms our democracy. I believe this is naive and not borne out by the evidence. Partisanship is responsible for the “dysfunction of Washington,” to use the current popular pejorative, and polls have recorded as much as 80% of the electorate dissatisfied with Congress. This figure is not easily obtained.
According a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the partisan gap has almost doubled since George W. Bush’s presidency through Barak Obama’s. America is becoming more partisan, if that is possible. Incumbent senators and congressmen have worked extremely hard for this and have forged a difficult alliance to reach this goal. This alliance is often overlooked by ideologues, but obviously, though appearing tacit, is the stabilizing influence in our political process.
A few months ago, I attended a large political gathering. There, a gentleman was handing out flyers which read, “Abolish the Congress and replace it with direct citizen voting by phone or television.” A few days later, a newly-arrived transplant to Southern California wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times. He said he was mystified by California’s method of writing and enacting laws by ballot initiative. He wondered what happened to the concept of laws being written by elected legislators. The flyer and the letter represent polar opposite views about direct versus representative democracy.
Over a century ago, progressive reformers were deeply worried about how wealthy interests had hijacked American politics populating state legislatures with cronies who did as they were told and otherwise steamrolled the will of the people.
To level the playing field, reformers worked to create mechanisms for direct democracy through state referendum and ballot initiatives, allowing voters to bypass corrupted political systems.