Progressive Breakfast for December 18

Morning Message

Trade Deal Promises vs. Realities

Next year the giant multinationals are going to try to sell us another trade deal by promising jobs and prosperity. And they’re going to push fast track to grease the skids to get it passed. It’s a good idea to be informed about what has actually happened. ... Did NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), bringing China into the World Trade Organization, CAFTA (the Central America Free Trade Agreement), the recent trade deal with South Korea and other agreements create jobs in the U.S. and generally bring prosperity?

Elizabeth Warren Goes After The TPP

Elizabeth Warren, other Democrats raise concerns about free-trade pact with Asia. The Washington Post: “Warren (D-Mass.), fresh off her break with the White House on the budget last week, said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could erode U.S. financial safeguards designed to “prevent future financial crises.” “We cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy,” Warren said in the letter, also signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).”

AFL-CIO Now posts “7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track”.

Obama Takes The Initiative On Cuba

Amy Goodman on “Obama and the Beginning of the End of the Cuban Embargo.” “The 11 million people of Cuba, as well as all of us here, deserve an open connection as neighbors, based on equality, grounded in peace.”

With the moves toward Cuba normalization, President Obama “looks like he’s been set free.” Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: “This was a major theme in conservative and not-so-conservative media for quite some time: Obama is passive, he’s bored, he just doesn’t care anymore, he’s like a senior two weeks from graduation who just can’t wait to get it over with … But with today’s announcement that we’ll be undertaking a normalization of relations with Cuba—a mere 54 years after the embargo began—combined with other recent moves on immigration and climate change, Obama is looking pretty engaged. The approaching end of his term and the loss of both houses of Congress seem to have liberated him.”

Careful Fed Statement Causes Ripples

Fed statement on rates “gets a rare hat trick of dissent.” Wall Street Journal: “The Federal Reserve’s decision Wednesday to tiptoe slowly toward interest-rate increases generated a significant and rare level of insurrection among its membership. … It was the first three-person dissent since Fed meetings held in August and September 2011 Fed meetings … Narayana Kocherlakota of the Minneapolis Fed continues to believe it’s a mistake for the Fed to contemplate interest rate increases at a time when inflation is falling so far short of the central bank’s official 2% goal.”

Bloomberg’s Noah Smith calls Narayana Kocherlakota “the Fed’s most interesting man.” “Kocherlakota has just declared that he will not seek reappointment as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis … When Kocherlakota became president of the Minneapolis Fed in 2009, he looked like a classic hawk … But in 2012, Kocherlakota made one of the greatest reversals in economics history. Switching abruptly from hawk to dove, he began to argue that the Fed needed to keep interest rates at zero for many more years. … With Kocherlakota leaving, the future of the Minneapolis Fed is in doubt. It remains to be seen if the directors will replace him with a classic Minnesota hawk, and whether his replacement will reverse the changes Kocherlakota made at the bank.”

Wall Street Fight Doesn’t Let Up

Mother Jones: ‘Wall Street Salivating Over Further Destruction of Financial Reform’ “Conventional pundit wisdom suggests that Wall Street may have overreached last week. … Then again, maybe not … Ed Kilgore points to this article in The Hill today: ‘Banks and financial institutions are planning an aggressive push to dismantle parts of the Wall Street reform law when Republicans take control of Congress in January. … Among the top items on the wish list: easing new requirements on mortgages, loosening restrictions on financial derivatives and overhauling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…’ “

Simon Johnson joins the “enough is enough” chorus against Antonio Weiss. “Antonio Weiss has been nominated to become Undersecretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. A growing number of people and organizations have expressed reservations about this potential appointment, which requires Senate confirmation … In recent days, Mr. Weiss’s supporters have sought to rally support through two outside letters that stress Mr. Weiss’s supposed qualifications for the job. But both these letters further weaken the case for Mr. Weiss … As argued by his opponents and as confirmed by the public statements of his strongest supporters, Antonio Weiss does not have the right background, qualifications, or – as far as anyone can reasonably determine – views to become Undersecretary for Domestic Finance.”

Robert Reich writes that “inside traders are rigging America.” “Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which oversees federal prosecutions of Wall Street … overturned [Global Investors’ co-founder Anthony] Chiasson’s conviction, citing lack of evidence Chaisson received the tip directly, or knew insiders were leaking confidential information in exchange for some personal benefit. … Major players on Wall Street have been making tons of money not because they’re particularly clever but because they happen to be in the realm where a lot of coins come their way. … “

Breakfast Sides

New York Times’ Neil Irwin shows how a big safety net and strong job market coexists in Scandinavia. “Some of the highest employment rates in the advanced world are in places with the highest taxes and most generous welfare systems, namely Scandinavian countries. The United States and many other nations with relatively low taxes and a smaller social safety net actually have substantially lower rates of employment. … If the goal is to get more people working, what’s important about a social welfare plan may be more about what the money is spent on than how much is spent.”

Torture – not in Iraq or Guantanamo, but Chicago. From In These Times: “In front of the Chicago Police Headquarters yesterday on the city’s South Side, a group of about 100 marchers, flanked by clusters of police officers on the sidewalk, huddled together with signs reading “Two Decades Too Many” and “Reparations Now.” … For nearly 20 years, [former Chicago Police Officer Jon] Burge led a “torture ring of white Chicago detectives” and used violent measures to get confessions from their suspects. In 2010, Burge was convicted of perjury for lying about the police torture. … [An ordinance sought by survivors and activists] would provide survivors with free education at City Colleges and build a center to offer vocational training, psychological counseling and health care services.”