Jul 202010
 

“This BP oil spill is typical” of what happens when private industry is allowed to draw revenue on what should be a public good, Stone said.

“We shouldn’t make this kind of profit on oil or on health or on war or on prisons. All these industries should be public industries.”

Raphael G. Slatter, Huffington Post

As a soldier in the 25th Infantry Division, Ol...
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I share Oliver Stone’s general sentiment. He’s right that, “We shouldn’t make this kind of profit on oil or on health or on war or on prisons. All these industries should be public industries.” In fact, the general rule should be that all non-discretionary industries are held publicly.

The free market does work, but its central thesis is based on the balance of supply and demand. And this “natural” balance is obviously lost when consumers have no real choice. Industries that are required for life in the modern age are ripe for abuse on the supply side, because demand is essentially fixed. Energy, healthcare, defense, and law enforcement all fit this paradigm, as does education.

Though it may sound corny, whenever I contemplate this situation, one of the Governator’s movies comes to mind — Total Recall. In that movie, business operatives run a colony on Mars, where they’ve constructed domed cities and they control the supply of air. It begs the question: what would be the market price for the oxygen we breathe?

Of course, Stone’s idea to nationalize oil is about far fetched as my Mars example (maybe more so). But there is another path that might actually be doable: don’t try to nationalize oil — make it obsolete. This could be accomplished through massive public investment in alternative energy. And oddly enough, it’s the right path for The People and the planet — imagine that!


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Jul 192010
 
Elizabeth Warren
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There’s been much discussion of late regarding President Obama’s appointment to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). It’s no secret that Tim Geithner has made it clear that he doesn’t want Warren to receive the appointment. So, everyone knows that the President will sign the finance “reform” bill into law sometime later this week, but as of right now, nobody knows who he will appoint to head the CFPB.

This appointment will be a watershed event for the Obama administration. President Obama has repeatedly chosen compromise over reform, even when there was nothing to gain from compromise. On the topic of Wall Street, it initially seemed that the President would fight for common Americans, but that hope was soon dashed. With the appointments of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, it became difficult to see how a president who surrounded himself with Goldman insiders could actually have the people’s best interest at heart.

From the beginning of the effort to “reform” Wall Street, President Obama supported the formation of the CBPB. In the face of conservative attacks attempting to place blame for the subprime disaster on the average people who overleveraged themselves, Obama stood fast and promoted an agency that would prevent lenders from misleading and otherwise abusing unknowledgeable borrowers. But where President Obama has been stringent in his support for the CFPB, Elizabeth Warren is its intellectual mother.

Of course, it’s easy to see why Geithner doesn’t want Elizabeth Warren. First of all, they just didn’t get along very well as Warren routinely raked him over the coals regarding the TARP payout. But more importantly, the finance “reform” bill leaves its eventual effectiveness almost entirely in the hands of the regulators who will enforce it. That means that the strength of the CFPB will rest squarely in the hands of its chair. Geithner has thus far been able to avoid an audit of the Fed; the last thing he wants is a real regulator watching over its inner workings.

It’s also possible that Tim Geithner’s concerns don’t end with the mere presence of a regulator. John R. Talbot expressed the potential for deeper issues in a Huffington Post article this morning. According to Talbot, the plan proposed by Geithner and Summers to restore profitability to the banks requires that they slowly write off their bad debts instead of taking a major hit. This enables them to offset the losses with profits as they move forward over time. Talbot states that, “the trillions of dollars of underwater mortgages, CDO’s and worthless credit default swaps are still on the banks books.” He then suggests that Warren’s type of oversight may prove detrimental to the bank’s ability to “find increasing sources of profitability in their business segments to balance out their annual loan loss recognition from their existing bad loans.” Of course, the sources he’s referring to are new methods of extracting fees and other payments from small retail customers.

In the end, the decision belongs to President Obama. He has the choice to either renew the belief that he is the president of The People, or conversely, to remove all doubt that his loyalty is actually to Wall Street and big business. If he appoints Elizabeth Warren, he will send a message to all middle class Americans that somebody in Washington is looking out for our interests. Alternatively, he can again follow Geithner’s advice and prove for once and for all that he’s just another corporatist in Democrat’s clothing.

From my perspective, this is a litmus test for the President, and I don’t think I’m alone in that position. President Obama’s choice will finally reveal his true colors: American red, white and blue or Wall Street green.

If you want to help make sure Elizabeth Warren is appointed to head the new consumer finance protection agency, please take a minute and sign this online petition that will be presented to the President and then use the accompanying email opportunity to invite your friends to do the same.


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Jul 162010
 

But the facts won’t make a difference to dyed-in the-wool conservatives, since the facts will be filtered through their ideological frames: when the facts don’t fit the frames, the facts will be ignored.

The conservative worldview says man has dominion over nature: nature is there for human monetary profit. Profit is sanctioned over the possibility of massive death and destruction in nature. Conservatives support even more dangerous drilling off the coast of Alaska and are working to repeal the President’s moratorium on deep water drilling. Nature be damned; the oil companies have a right to make money, death or no death.

George Lakoff, Huffington Post

Rush Limbaugh on BP's Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill...
Image by Cory M. Grenier via Flickr

I agree with much of this article, but I think the central premise is somewhat askew. I see the problem differently as it pertains to the common conservative. These are people who have real concerns about themselves and their families. They fear the loss of their meager means and the intrusion of those not like them, and these fears are fanned on a daily basis by those they trust — those who seek to exploit their naïveté, to use them.

I’m not an apologist for ignorant conservatives, but I believe that at the core, we all share a similar set of concerns and principles. These people don’t reject a liberal telling them something that doesn’t fit their model because they’re arrogant or uncaring. They do so because they’ve been trained not to trust that “snake oil peddling” liberal.

This dynamic grows in both consequence and complexity in situations like those in the Gulf, or the Appalachian coal mines, or any number of cases where the economic wellbeing of average Americans is wed to the future of given industries.

When liberals rightfully demand a drilling moratorium, or campaign against dirty coal, they position themselves between people and their livelihoods — they ask people to cut of the hand that feeds them.

This is not a problem of a certain people. It’s a societal problem. We need to educate everyone, and when we show them that we care about their personal situation, they just might listen to us long enough to learn.


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