Progressive Breakfast for April 21

Morning Message

Can Democracy Tame Plutocracy?

We know that America is reaching new levels of extreme inequality. We know that from the founders on, our wisest leaders cautioned that extreme and entrenched economic inequality would lead to political inequality, as the wealthy use their resources and influence to protect their privileges ... We know that the rich and big corporations now dominate the political process, to an extreme worthy of an oligarchy. A recent exhaustive study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page found that elites got their way not often, but virtually all of the time ... The unknown is whether a movement will grow to clean out Washington and make the government an instrument of the common good, rather than the private interest.

Trade Deal Focus Of Presidential Asia Visit

Obama to push for trade deal during Asia trip. W. Post: “The United States and Japan have been engaged in intense negotiations for months — and as recently as Friday — over how to resolve their trade differences in the context of the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership … The two sides still have serious differences over how to treat the agricultural and automobile sectors, but officials from both governments said last week that they remain optimistic about reaching a deal.”

Reps. George Miller, Rosa DeLauro and Louise Slaughter pen anti-TPP oped for LAT: “…this agreement would force Americans to compete against workers from nations such as Vietnam, where the minimum wage is $2.75 a day. It threatens to roll back financial regulation, environmental standards and U.S. laws … the arguments made by Vice President Joe Biden and others that the deal is crucial to demonstrating the U.S. commitment to the region or to uniting with allies to counter a rising power — in this case, China — are tired claims that repeatedly have proved false when raised to sell past pacts.”

NYT edit board turns skeptical on trade agreements: “This page has long argued that removing barriers to trade benefits the economy and consumers … But those gains have not been as widespread as we hoped, and they have not been adequate to assist those who were harmed … The Obama administration has revealed so few details about the negotiations, even to members of Congress and their staffs, that it is impossible to fully analyze the Pacific partnership … the administration’s rationale for secrecy seems to apply only to the public. Big corporations are playing an active role in shaping the American position because they are on industry advisory committees to the United States trade representative…”

Obamacare Success Screws Up GOP Plans

“Obamacare’s Success Is Destroying the GOP’s Midterm Strategy” argues TNR’s Brian Beutler: “…the GOP didn’t settle upon that strategy based on a belief that first-year enrollment would exceed expectations or that the law would at worst be an ambiguous success … if the GOP’s only response is to flail oddly and angrily about Obamacare, it will be a prelude to an ironic reversal of fortune. Where some members of the media were prepared until recently to interpret the Democratic agenda as a distraction from Obamacare, more will soon come to interpret Republicans’ obsession with Obamacare as a distraction from their complete lack of one.”

Robert Kuttner urges Democrats to “go long”: “…why not take a leaf from the right’s playbook. Why not say what we’re really for, and have a long-term plan to lead public opinion there? … No high frequency trading (which adds nothing except profits to insiders). No hedge funds exempt from the usual disclosure rules. No mega-banks that add only risk to the rest of the system? How about national health insurance, pure and simple? How about a minimum wage that’s a true living wage?”

Action Need To Tame Inequality

Piketty argues historical reductions in inequality result of “historical catastrophe,” notes NYT: ” World War I, the Depression and World War II destroyed huge accumulations of private capital, especially in Europe … But the professional and political assumption of the 1950s and 1960s, that inequality would stabilize and diminish on its own, proved to be an illusion … His work is a challenge both to Marxism and laissez-faire economics, which ‘both count on pure economic forces for harmony or justice to prevail,’ he said”

Long-term poverty is primarily rural, reminds NYT: “Of the 353 most persistently poor counties in the United States … 85 percent are rural. They are clustered in distinct regions: Indian reservations in the West; Hispanic communities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; a band across the Deep South and along the Mississippi Delta with a majority black population; and Appalachia, largely white…”

Kochs v. Climate

Kochs wage battle against solar. LAT: “The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states … At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.”

We’re “Running Out of Time” says NYT edit board: “The world has only about 15 years left in which to begin to bend the emissions curve downward. Otherwise, the costs of last-minute fixes will be overwhelming … The most obvious, and probably the most difficult to negotiate, is to put a global price on carbon … A more plausible pathway is to get each country to adopt binding emission reduction targets and then allow them to choose how to get there…”