Isaiah J. Poole

Voters Want The Banks Reined In

House members should beware when bank lobbyists come calling: Ceding to their wishes might get you campaign cash but it will likely cost you the next election. That’s the message of a new poll released today by Celinda Lake and done for Americans for Financial Reform. That poll says that two-thirds of voters in “Blue Dog” or conservative Democratic districts and those in politically competitive Democratic districts support the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency with the teeth “to enforce a strong set of rules” for banks and financial services businesses.

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Dave Johnson

Stopping Banks From Fleecing, Looting, Scamming, Conning and Generally Ripping Us Off

In the last several years we have all been fleeced, looted, robbed, swindled, thieved, tricked, cheated, scammed, exploited, ponzied, stung, conned, extorted, ripped off and bankrupted by the banks and other big financial companies. Finally the Congress is working on reining them in. This week the Congress takes up whether to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). This is a very important bill, creating an analog to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), designed to protect consumers from financial scams and general fleecing. I was on a blogger call today with Elizabeth Warren to discuss this bill. This call was hosted by Heather Booth, Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of 200 organizations fighting for this other reforms of our banking and financial system.

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Bill Scher

Baucus Bill Passes. Process Moves Forward. Public Option Push Critical.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, before breaking party ranks to join all Democrats on the Senate Finance in support of health care reform, said the most accurate thing of the day: “This will not be the final bill.” Knowing that fact, one wonders why Snowe wanted to wait for a more detailed Congressional Budget Office estimate and delay this vote for another two weeks. But the past is past. What the Senate Finance Committee did today was simply move the process forward. Sen. Jay Rockefeller voted yes, but is still opposed to a bill without a public option. Sen. Ron Wyden voted yes, but is still concerned that the health insurance “exchanges” — where you would get any public option — are limited to too few people. And Sen.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Movement To Block Bernanke Gathers Steam

The renomination of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve should not be rubber-stamped by the Senate until Bernanke and the Fed are more transparent and accountable to the public, says a growing coalition of activists roused by Reps. Alan Grayson and Ron Paul, who have asked the Senate to put a hold on Bernanke’s nomination.

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Robert Borosage

A Recipe For Another Financial Debacle

As the House Financial Services Committee begins markup on Wednesday of key financial reform legislation, the stakes are clear. Without strong regulation of the banks and the shadow banking system, large banks will feel free to gamble with the assumption that taxpayers will cover their losses. This is a recipe for another financial debacle. Yet, even as the committee begins its work, the banking lobby has worked the backrooms to weaken the reforms proposed by the administration. The central administration proposal—the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect consumers from financial frauds and rip-offs—has already been critically compromised. No longer are financial institutions required to offer consumers simple and plain basic mortgages and other loans. The enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act has been stripped from the CFPA.

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Eric Lotke

The American People: Smarter Than They Look On TV

New public opinion research by the Economic Policy Institute contains reassuring findings. The American people are smarter than they sometimes look on TV. The survey of 802 registered voters in September 2009, revealed a clear sense of who’s winning and who’s losing in the economy and politics. People were asked who “the government’s policies to deal with the economic recession have helped.” The frontrunner was “large banks” (62 percent) followed by “Wall Street investment companies” (54 percent). Trailing way behind were “people who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut back” (15 percent) and the “average working person” (13 percent). “Me and my family” came in last place at ten percent. Joe the teabagger might be getting hoodwinked about who he should march against — but he knows who (still) calls the shots in Washington.

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Bill Scher

Insurance Companies Remind Public Why We Hate Them

Just as the Senate Finance Committee is about to pass a health care bill without a public option, the insurance lobby’s last-minute hissy fit exposed the weakness of its argument against a public option. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main insurance lobby organization, released a report projecting a rise in annual premiums for the average family from $12,300 today to $25,900 in 2019 if the Senate Finance Committee version becomes law. That version has an individual mandate to buy private health insurance — albeit with lighter penalties than initially proposed, the report’s complaint — but it does not have a public option that competes with private health insurance. The insurance industry is acting as if these price spikes would just magically happen after the bill becomes law, not acknowledge that it sets the costs of premiums.

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Sam Pizzigati

Mending America’s Torn Social Fabric

In closely knit communities, people care about each other and help each other, too. But healthy “social fabrics,” as the expression goes, can tear. Inequality can tear them. The wider the income gaps between us, the less we share in common, the less we care about those around us. Over time, in a deeply unequal society, we come to feel almost totally on our own — and unprotected. Our society becomes a place where people don’t help each. They fear each other. This past summer, many Americans saw that fear — in TV footage of angry protestors at congressional “town hall” meetings — and wondered whether our horribly divided society is sliding toward a future where hateful demagogues are essentially calling the shots. But small bands of other Americans weren’t wondering and worrying.

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Bill Scher

Sen. Lindsey Graham Crosses The Climate Rubicon

Last week, I struck a hopeful note after GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed interest in a climate bill compromise that included a carbon cap in exchange for support for some nuclear power and coastal drilling. But my expectations it would really happen remained low. Today, Graham made a deal all but inevitable. Final compromise language is far from complete. But for the conservative South Carolinian to explicitly back “aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change” (!) in a joint op-ed with Massachusetts liberal Sen. John Kerry (!!) published in pages of New York Times (!!!), Graham has already done all he could to infuriate the conservative movement and many voters in his conservative state. In other words, Graham has already assumed the political risks for doing a deal.

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Dave Johnson

Manufacturing And Outsourcing — What Were We Thinking?

I’m reading a a review of“€œCapitalism: A Love Story” at naked capitalism, and came across this, “I grew up in small towns dominated by manufacturing plants, and I remember that they were prosperous, optimistic, and stable. People who had good jobs at the local mill were not the top of the social order; that was reserved for businessmen and successful professionals, like doctors and lawyers. But they could afford decent homes, creature comforts, vacations, and send their kids to college (not the fanciest, often a state school unless they got a scholarship, but their children could nevertheless hope to do better than their parents). But that had started fading by the 1970s as America’s economic dominance started to slip.

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Dave Johnson

Here We Go Again – American Glass Industry Losing Jobs And Factories To Chinese Subsidies

Short-term gains for a few. Long-term harm to the rest of us. Again and again we have seen American industries exported, the plants closed, the jobs lost, and government officials just letting it happen. The workers in the other countries are almost always paid less than workers here, sometimes dramatically less, which means they can’t afford to buy things made in America. They often suffer from dangerous working conditions and the factories they work in often spread pollution that that harms people there and even affects us here. Our country let this happen because a wealthy few benefited in the short term from policies that harmed the rest of us over the long term. The wealthy few used some of the $$ gained to buy off lobby and contribute to campaigns of politicians who let them get away with it.

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Robert Borosage

Moyers Tonight: Why Wall Street Always Wins

Don’t miss the Bill Moyers show tonight. He’s got Simon Johnson, the former IMF economist and Rep. Marcy Kaptur looking at how Wall Street dominates Washington — from the White House to Congress. Eyeopening stuff: Arianna Huffington published an excerpt from the transcript: BILL MOYERS: Let — let’s look at this story that just– I just read from the Associated Press this week about how Treasury Secretary Geithner is on the phone several times a day with a select group of very powerful Wall Street bankers, especially Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs. He will talk to them when Members of Congress have to leave a message on the answering machine. And these are the bankers who helped bring on this calamity and who are now benefiting from it. What does that say to you? MARCY KAPTUR: That says to me that– Wall Street and Washington is a circuit.

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Terrance Heath

Spatula Alert: Obama Wins Nobel Prize

Wow. Break out the spatulas, and get ready to scrape the exploded brains of right-wingers off the ceiling, walls, etc. Apparently, President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. US President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee said he won it for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”. The committee highlighted Mr Obama’s efforts to support international bodies and promote nuclear disarmament. Mr Obama’s spokesman said the president was “humbled” to have won the prize. He said he woke Mr Obama up when he called with the news early on Friday. There were a record 205 nominations for this year’s peace prize. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Chinese dissident Hu Jia had been among the favourites.

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Dave Johnson

Major Free-Trade Economist Says China Tire Tariffs “Part Of The Rules”

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog wrote this yesterday: Princeton University economist, author and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics last year for his work on international trade — so the guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this subject. [. . .] Krugman downplayed concerns about protectionism. The Obama administration’s move last month to impose tariffs on certain imports of Chinese tires raised much concern that nations are leaning towards protectionism — a move some economists say worsened and prolonged the Great Depression. But Krugman isn’t convinced. First, he said, protectionism was an effect –– not a cause — of the Great Depression — a frequent misconception among economists, he said. And despite “incidents” it hasn’t really been a factor in the current downturn.

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Leo Gerard

“Anything Goes” Capitalism Destroys Companies and Workers’ Lives

In the title tune to the 1934 musical Anything Goes,”Cole Porter says “times have changed,” since the stock market crashed in 1929, but the super rich, like John D. Rockefeller Jr., “still can hoard enough money to let Max Gordon produce his shows.” The lyrics also tease FDR because Eleanor advertised a mattress from a venerable company: “Missus R., with all her trimmin’s, can broadcast a bed from Simmons, ’cause Franklin knows, Anything Goes.” That 133-year-old company, which employs members of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), will file for bankruptcy soon. Then it will be auctioned to yet another private equity firm – the seventh such sale in little more than 20 years. Repeatedly, new owners stuck their greedy hands under the mattress and pulled out money. Each time, that hurt the company and the workers.

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Robert Borosage

Glenn Beck Isn’t Blocking Health Care Reform

Glenn Beck has captured national attention with his caustic poison. The aging right-wing troubadours — Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly—still rouse the wingnuts and enforce discipline among Republican legislators. They’ve peddled the fantasies about ACORN and the all-powerful poverty lobby, and launched a search-and-destroy hunt for targets of opportunity in the Obama administration. Progressives have sensibly organized to question Beck’s advertisers, and even the president has called him out. But it is worth remembering—Glenn Beck is not blocking the passage of a good health care bill. The old and new carny acts of the right aren’t undermining the energy legislation or frustrating financial reform. To focus on who and what is standing in the way, follow the money.

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Brian Dockstader

Defunding The Real Criminal Enterprises

A few weeks ago I wrote about the brazen hypocrisy with which conservatives in Congress met the revelation that a handful of ACORN employees gave stupid advice to two conservative operatives attempting to provoke them into saying just such stupid things. While conservatives ravenously pounced on the opportunity to defund the network of community organizations committed to helping and empowering low-income communities (most egregiously by trying to help them participate in their own democracy), they happily and predictably turned a blind eye to the mass levels of fraud, criminality and assorted malfeasance that have been committed by their dear corporate benefactors over the years.

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Bill Scher

Let’s Try This Again: Are There GOP Senators Who Will Back The Climate Bill?

In July I speculated that Sen. Lamar Alexander might lead some Republicans to back a climate protection bill if Democratic leaders made some concessions regarding nuclear power. The prospect was tantalizing, as I noted then: “The Democratic caucus is not solid enough on climate issues to presume GOP votes are unneeded. Anyone giving a positive signal is at least worth feeling out.” But Alexander quickly buried that possibility, setting wildly impossible goals for nuclear and ramping up intellectually incoherent attacks on the House climate bill. Now, the possibility of Republican support for “cap and trade” legislation is getting renewed attention. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham explicitly raised the possibility of a deal, involving more nuclear power and offshore drilling, and Democratic leaders are hearing him out.

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