Daily Topics Blog - Friday December 18th 2009

bernie imagesHour One  "Brunch With Bernie" Senator Bernie Sanders www.sanders.senate.gov

Hour Two -  Deevi Danes www.swopusa.org Topic:  End Violence Against Sex Workers

Hour Three - Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL, 8th District) www.graysonforcongress.com Topic: Health care, Afghanistan

Guest: Bill McKibben www.350.org Topic: Wrap up from Copenhagen Climate Summit

Comments

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#1

For "Anything Goes Friday"

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion . . . . I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

Author: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

'Just for fun: Life in corporate America (audio clips from the movie "Office Space.")

http://www.gotwavs.com/Movies/Office_Space.html

Mark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#2

When I was growing-up in Wisconsin, grade school history books made certain that Joe McCarthy wasn’t the most “important” politician ever to come out of Wisconsin, but it would be Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, governor and later U.S. senator. Thom ought to know who La Follette is: He was the acknowledged leader of the progressive movement in the early 20th century (Teddy Roosevelt merely used the movement for his own purposes). His reputation as a reforming governor helped him win election to the Senate at a time even then when most observers believed a senate seat was the province of elitist millionaires.

La Follette earned the reputation of a lawmaker who was not bought and sold by the “interests;” he continuously battled what he termed “selfish interests," and championed numerous regulatory laws defending the rights of labor and consumers. He founded La Follette’s Weekly, later renamed The Progressive (Thom didn’t know that?). La Follette also opposed Wilson’s creation of the Federal Reserve Board, which he saw as government sponsorship of business interests.

La Follette would lose much of his reputation for his opposition to the U.S. entry into WWI, and would be harshly criticized for his stand. Yet La Follette correctly saw war as a means for business to take control of the government. Answering pleas from progressives to run for president, he entered the 1924 presidential race on the Progressive Party ticket. La Follette would win only Wisconsin, and manage but 17 percent of the popular vote. He died before the Great Depression; one of his son’s would be a supporter of FDR’s New Deal as a U.S. senator; another son as governor of Wisconsin would enact the first unemployment insurance measure in the country.

Mark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#3

A few comments about some other shows I listen to: If Stephanie Miller's show is any example, real health care reform would be in the bag if the media spent as much time describing the sordid details of private insurance company shenanigans as it is spending with the sordid details of Tiger Woods' bedroom shenanigans (Miller keeps her listeners well-informed on the latest Woods revelation). Tiger, of course, forgot lesson number one about being a black man with money: stay away from the white women--their nothing but trouble. Your story will trump serious news every time.

I also heard yesterday Mike Malloy talking about women under Islam. I think it is useful to point that in countries where fundamentalist Islam holds sway, males also from being taught antiquated beliefs that stunt their ability to adapt to the modern world. Life on earth is transitory, meaningless; why doing anything useful to advance civilization when "paradise" is just around the corner?

We also seem to have an overload of Ed Schultz on AM1090 (six hours worth), caused by yet another mysterious disappearance of Randi Rhodes. She must have been a naughty girl again. Maybe she should join Howard Stern on Syrius Radio. I have to admit that on slow news days, Rhodes tended to say outrageous things, helped along by a battalion of adoring callers feeding her ego, which after twenty minutes tended to be a drag.

Mark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#4

I didn't quite get all the words I wanted to say in the Islam part of my last post. Males also "suffer" from the teachings of Islamic fundamentalism. I wanted to get that in before the batteries die.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#5

Have You Seen This?

"Al Franken Shuts Down Joe Lieberman on Senate Floor"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m3MyjHM-a4

Once again, Al does what I wish I could do. (Maybe Al and I are more alike than I realized. That's not to say that I always make the best decisions...LOL)

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#6

@Quark, I didn't see the exchange, but I did hear it last night. Loved it. I also loved McCain's complaint about it afterward, saying in his 27 years in the Senate he's never seen such a thing happen... another Senator had to point out to him a that indeed such a denial had happened in the Senate before, in fact just a few hours before. Grandpa should try to stay awake when he does bother to attend.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#7

Nels Nelsen,

Thanks for that (I hadn't heard 'bout Grandpa's retort.) LOL!

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#8

What the White House doesn't seem to understand is that this health care "reform" bill makes his corporate enemies even MORE powerful and more impossible to fight against!

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#9

@Mark: Yes, La Follette was magic and is missed.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#10

"his corporate enemies" s.b. "it's corporate enemies" (spoken by the grammar policeman in my brain)

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#11

s.b. "its" --- sorry for all the cx (I have an anxious day ahead)

Don Powell (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#12

Hey Sen. Sanders... you say a positive part of this new bill is that it disallows exclusion of coverage for pre-existing conditions.... well isn't it true that the insurance companies can just jack up the rates for pre-existing conditions anyway? You call that good?

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#13

@Quark: Best part of the Lieberman shut-down was Schumer telling McCain (who declared he had never seen such a impolite thing) that other folk had been cut off that morning . . . Leaving the question . . . What was McCain up to for the lat 27 years? Sleeping?

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#14

@Quark: The White House and its current tenant has no corporate enemies . . . Only future donors.

DDay (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#15

I was real proud of my senator yesterday. Word is that Al does a really mean impersonation of Joe Lie...ber..man too.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#16

Richard,

Re: future donors

Yes, that is the sad truth. I think the corporate personhood issue is the way to cut all this off. I wonder if the municipalities and states can pull that off through legislation to refuse to recognise this status (until a national "tipping point" can force the issue in Washington.)

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#17

DDay,

I called Al's office to thank him. I told the staffer that the more Al opens his mouth, the more loyal I become. The staffer was laughing the whole time. It was a fun phone call.

Watt Childress (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#18

At each juncture in negotiating healthcare reform, progressives have used tape and glue to construct some semblance of a public option. None of these were the real deal, but progressives kept trying to put together something that would appease detractors. And in each instance, a handful of corporate sell-outs in the Democratic caucus whipped out their scissors and cut.

What has been the progressive response? "Well, this is better than nothing. There's still some good things in there. We'll think about it."

And then they've gone along with whatever leadership wants, essentially caving to the corporate sell-outs. That's how it looks to the public.

Are progressives capable of using scissors? It would be a demonstration of strength if Senator Sanders or someone else were to say "I cannot vote for this bill so long as it includes a mandate that would force citizens to purchase insurance from private corporations. I cannot vote for that mandate without giving citizens the choice of a robust public option."

That position carries populist appeal. It could also put Sanders in a media position similar to that enjoyed by others who have said they could not support the bill unless something was removed from it.

Yes, there are arguments for a mandate. But if progressives aren't willing to pick up the scissors we will continue to have little leverage and we will come across as weak to the public.

thebinxster (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#19

during a hearing, cbo did state that consumers could pay up to 17-20 percent of their income for health care.
that is in the bill.
it may not be 25 percent, but it is significant.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#20

@Quark: My “future donors” crack failed to fully deliver the truth of the situation . . . It should have read:

“The White House, and its current tenant, has no corporate enemies . . . Only future donors who have yet to receive an unwarranted, unsolicited hand-out, yet.”

thebinxster (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#21

remember no child left behind?
i hear the exact same things being said now, as were said then.

thebinxster (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#22

sorry, bernie is incorrect.
insurers can charge more for "factors" such as verious illnesses that might actually be "preexisting conditions".

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#23

thebinxster is correct and Bernie needs to double check. AT PRESENT in the Senate bill, the insurance rate is 300% of the non-pre-exisiting condition rate and in the House bill is capped at 200%.

DDay (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#24

Quark,

I sent Al a long email yesterday telling him that if he decides to not vote to pass this lousy health bill that most progressives will support him. Tom Harkin who I greatly admire keeps saying a half a loaf is better than none at all. I wrote him to say that it wasn't if the half a loaf is all moldy. It is time that Obama and his minions pay some attention to the progressives instead of only kow-towing to the Republicants and Bluedogs. This bill gives too much to the insurance and pharma industries and gets too little for the people, at a huge cost. I believe Howard Dean is right. I doubt Senator Franken will take this bold step now but wanted to let him know he would have support if he did.

On a related issue. Last night Chris Mathews went off on a rant that the people who are bitching about this deal and who favor scuttling it are the "squeaky wheels who never actually do anything but complain. I wanted to strangle him. Even some on the left don't respect progressives very much. That is why I favor rocking the boat. This deal is another Medicare Part D.

Happy Hoosier (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#25

Need to challenge to oft-repeated comment that the govt. should not be involved in health care as it represents "one-sixth of the US economy." We should point out that this - if true - is a sad statistic: 1. Since we have lost huge chunks of a once-solid economy, sectors like health care take up what is left. 2. Health care would not take up 1/6 if the costs were not so outrageous.

The same approach works for challenging the idea that we have to keep promoting "Small Business" as the engine for job creation. A sad statistic as "small" is all that is left. They do not provide decent wages or job security.

DDay (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#26

@ Watt

You speak for me.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#27

The problem with the "perfect is the enemy of the change” mantra is that while there is some minor incremental improvement in the limited, short-term . . . The truth is that the Recessivists work feverishly for decades to dismantle, reverse and destroy any and all progressive legislation. In the end, one sixtieth of a loaf is bread-lines and dearth for all.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#28

@THOM: In America, we have any oligarchy . . . It is minority rule that counts . . . Counts their money.

Majority rule is a democratic republic thigy.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#29

Based purely on history, Harry Reid can’t roll-over quick enough and the place below our feet will freeze to fifty gazillion below absolute zero before he will get the people’s work done. That's Harry Reid's legacy.

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#30

"Anything Goes Friday"

While we have ample grounds for anger, and some reason for despair, what we really need is to be happy that we have such great challenges to face. Our efforts have meaning; our work is needed.

Surely it would be better if the right health care bill were passed swiftly and effortlessly, or even slowly and with hard work, but we need not feel badly that it is glacially slow and insanely difficult. Happyness and meaningfulness give us strength!

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#31

OMG! I’ve gone to that mindless angry liberal place, again, and there is still over an hour and a half to go. I’m going to be cranky all weekend . . .

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#32

We get half a loaf, which is better then nothing.

What sucks about getting this half a loaf is this, we're expected to plant the wheat, grind it into flower, mix it up, bake it. Then the boss comes in cuts the loaf, in "half" (in so much that there was a cut made and the result is two pieces one much larger than the other), takes the large piece and leaves the leftover for us and acts benevolent for allowing us to have that.

Geez it would be so much less painful if the jerk hadn't taken the land from us in the first place with shady laws his buddies put in place in the middle of the night.

Mark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#33

John McCain is still whining about the lack bi-partisanship in the Senate's health care bill. Enough of that. First Republicans opposed any reform, and then when pressed by public opinion offered nothing constructive. The bill has already been watered down considerably to appease Republicrats, so McCain's point is not well taken, or to be taken at all.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#34

The corporate democrats didn't even go in asking for the whole loaf.

West (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#35

Thom,
Ben Nelson offers anti-choice amendments to the health care legislation to limit a woman's right to choose. I don't know him, but I suspect his logic goes something like this. I am religious, and I think it is immoral to undergo an abortion. Therefore federal $$ must not go to performing abortions.
Well...I'm not religious, but I have an idea. I think that next time Sen. Nelson puts forth some legislation, we offer an amendment preventing federal $$ from going to killing people in other countries to get their oil because I'm of the opinion that WAR IS FREAKING IMMORAL!!!
Double standard politicking.
Keep up the good fight.
West

DDay (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#36

@ Richard

How can we tell when your aren't cranky? (I like you that way, anyway. In fact Lewis Black is my favorite comic. Sometimes your words remind me of him.) :-).

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#37

@NelsNelsen: DEMONcrats started out asking for less than a TWELFTH of the loaf. Twenty-seven million is LESS than a twelfth of 331 million.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#38

@Richard, I'm sure the DEMONcrats only asked for the twelfth of the loaf so they could widdle it down to nothing... then poison it with nice hand outs to the insurance company.

Eating such bread is only going to make me violently ill, so in the long run I'll have less then I started with.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#39

"The trouble with being educated is that is takes a long time; it uses up a better part of your life and when you are finished what you know is that you would have benefited more by going into banking. I wonder if bankers ask such questions." - Philip K. Dick, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#40

@West: Who says the Ben Nelson is religious or that any of his motivations are based in any religious interpretation?

Looking at his voting record it is more likely that his motivations are ‘philo-corporate-opy’ . . . Unless corporations are his god . . . Hmmm . . . I have got to dwell upon this one for a while.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#41

79% ! ! ! ! Sign me up! I'll take two.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#42

@Richard I think Nelson's God looks like green paper, and Corporations are the church he attends.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#43

From the Jan. 2010 issue of Harper's Magazine. ('Sorry for the length, but the link won't work unless you're a subscriber.)

http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/0082768

Up from globalism
By Alan Tonelson

(Alan Tonelson, a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, is the author of The Race to the Bottom, published by Westview Press.)

For decades, America’s economics and business elites have been confidently assuring their countrymen that the alarming decline of the U.S. manufacturing sector was nothing to worry about. Dying industries and mass layoffs represented a great human tragedy, of course, and manufacturing boasted a long, distinguished history, but in the grander scheme of things all that misery and dislocation was for the best. The demise of manufacturing simply heralded the rise of alternatives better suited to modern circumstances—chiefly, the spectacular progress of information technologies and the impressive advances in the psychology and mathematics of finance.

American leaders, the Establishment insisted, should therefore resist sentimental temptations to prop up home-grown industries or prevent their migration abroad. Economic theory reinforced the idea that manufacturing was passé, and Wall Street issued authoritative reports emphasizing that “a strong manufacturing sector is not a requisite for a prosperous economy.” Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan even condescendingly referred to manufacturing as “something we were terrific at fifty years ago,” “essentially a nineteenth- and twentieth-century technology.”

Politicians clearly were convinced. “The progression of an economy such as America’s from agriculture to manufacturing to services,” said Ronald Reagan in 1985, “is a natural change.” It seemed that a Darwinian process was revealing a better basis for a national economy, and especially for a high-income country such as ours: the adroit leveraging of a wide variety of both hard and financial assets, plus the provision of non-financial services like entertainment, transportation, health care, research, and “symbolic” analysis. Industrial policies meant to promote manufacturing therefore were not only misguided but unnatural. The only exceptions, of course, were items needed for the military.

In the early years of this decade, the conventional wisdom about the coming “post-industrial” society and its wonderful service economy reached its pinnacle. Through unprecedented loose money policies and deliberately lax regulation, the managers of our economy sparked a six-year expansion fueled by record financial and housing leverage and debt-fueled household consumption.

Today, the idea of maintaining genuine American prosperity without a vibrant manufacturing sector stands exposed as a fairy tale. In December 2007, our production-light economic expansion officially collapsed into the worst worldwide downturn since the Great Depression. The recessionary forces unleashed by the crash are so powerful that they are keeping private-sector U.S. growth negligible despite trillions of dollars of government bailouts—not to mention interest-free borrowing for the country’s biggest banks and record-low interest rates for the rest of the economy. Indeed, the Federal Reserve considers healthy growth (as opposed to the unsustainable government-created kind it is still fostering) such a remote prospect that it expects to maintain its economic life-support programs indefinitely.

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Faced with economic armageddon, and recognizing the origins of the crisis in bloated finance and real estate sectors, American business leaders are cooling their long infatuation with “post-industrialism.” Manufacturing is suddenly all the rage. After forty years of outsourcing and globalization, business leaders are beginning to understand that real, self–sustaining American recovery and prosperity require a manufacturing base that is not only highly productive and innovative but is a much larger share of gross domestic product. Leading the new revival is Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of thoroughly globalized General Electric, and he has been echoed by Ford’s chairman, Bill Ford, and Andrew N. Liveris of Dow Chemical. Even service magnates like James H. Quigley, the “Global CEO” of consultants Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, have jumped on the bandwagon: “It’s extremely important for the United States to have a robust manufacturing base—including a vibrant domestic auto industry—both for our economic prosperity and national security.”

Immelt’s newfound enthusiasm for domestic manufacturing is decidedly ironic. His legendary predecessor, Jack Welch, turned GE into a champion outsourcer, and as recently as three years ago, after Welch’s retirement, the company proudly told investors that by 2010 more than half of its manufacturing would be performed outside the United States. Immelt now admits that “in some areas, we have outsourced too much.”

Unfortunately, an actual manufacturing revival is a goal that is not only distant but receding. And the prospects for one will remain bleak as long as so many new advocates, including President Obama, keep shying away from the bold policy departures that are needed—especially in America’s international trade policies.

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The cold-eyed economic case for reviving manufacturing is overwhelming. Americans rightly want a high-tech national economy full of “knowledge workers,” but this goal is unachievable without major re-industrialization, because manufacturing companies and their workers perform an estimated 70 percent of America’s research and development. Americans also want a big, vibrant middle class, and a much bigger domestic industrial base is crucial for this goal as well, since only manufacturing has ever lifted large numbers of working-class Americans into these ranks.

Most important, a major manufacturing resurgence is key to overcoming America’s debt-fueled economic crisis and to re-establishing prosperity based on wealth creation and earnings. Despite a mainly recession-induced fall in imports, manufacturing still accounts for every bit of America’s trade deficit—the huge, chronic shortfall between America’s purchases from abroad and its overseas sales. Meaningfully reducing the biggest source of excessive U.S. foreign debt requires a massive commitment to boosting manufacturing, both to expand exports and to replace much of the vastly greater import flow with domestically produced goods.

Unfortunately, exactly the opposite has been happening. The enormous job loss within American industry has been widely noted: manufacturing represented a little over 14 percent of real GDP in 2007, but since the recession’s onset, through October 2009, it has suffered nearly 29 percent of total job losses, about twice its share. (And the Obama Administration’s own questionable data indicates that the 640,000 jobs it claims were created or saved by the stimulus bill included only 2,500 in manufacturing.) Yet even less attention has been paid to the far more important trends in manufacturing output. After all, unless their output is growing vigorously, highly productive industries—in which technology is substituted for labor all the time—will never see any real job growth.

And manufacturing is still shrinking as a share of the U.S. economy. In 2008, for example, the overall U.S. economy logged only 0.74 percent growth after inflation. But real manufacturing output fell by 2.74 percent. That’s better than the 5.61 percent nosedive in construction or the 3.03 percent plunge in finance and insurance, but unlike those two sectors, manufacturing was never the subject of a speculative bubble. Worse, since the recession began in December 2007, inflation-adjusted manufacturing output has plummeted nearly five times faster than total economic output.

Nor is the problem limited principally to the decimated automotive sector. Real output in manufacturing generally today (as of October) is no higher than it was a decade ago, and production in numerous individual industries is currently at multi-year and even multi-decade lows. According to the Federal Reserve, inflation-adjusted American production of steel and other primary metals—down more than 34 percent since the recession began—is back to levels first hit in October 1982. Paper output is back to late-1983 levels. Machinery production is down to levels hit in early 1974, electrical equipment and appliance production has fallen to where it stood in February 1988, and plastics and rubber-goods production is down to October 1994 levels.

American manufacturing has big global competitiveness problems too. Our tremendous trade deficits are one key measure, but they may not be the most important. Over the past decade, domestic manufacturers have also been losing big, rapidly expanding chunks of their own home market in the United States to foreign competition. In other words, U.S.-based producers of manufactures (whether U.S.- or foreign-owned) have been losing out head to head against overseas-based rivals (whether U.S.- or foreign-owned) in the market they should know best, and where they face no trade barriers whatever. Worse, imports not only dominate U.S. markets for garments and toys and consumer electronics; they are becoming pervasive in a wide variety of more sophisticated manufactures where American producers are supposed to be doing much better. For example, as of 2007 (the latest available data), imports had taken over 90 percent of the U.S. market in plastics production machinery and in metal-forming machine tools. They represented between 60 and 70 percent of Americans’ purchases of goods like turbines and turbine-generator sets, computer storage devices, and miscellaneous electric components.

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Unfortunately, despite our economic wise men’s newfound respect for manufacturing, most of their ideas about expanding the sector remain far too timid to succeed. Immelt’s recommendations are typical. He calls for greatly boosting public and private investment in research and development. But he ignores the powerful incentives that have led U.S. multinational companies, like his own GE, to move ever more laboratories and the advanced manufacturing they promote to low-income countries like China and India. These incentives include not only a wage-depressing glut of even skilled workers but also subsidies for everything from land and water to energy and the act of exporting itself. They also include trade deals like NAFTA, which make possible a business model based on supplying the high-priced U.S. market from extremely low-cost and lightly regulated countries. The same incentives to offshore production could easily neuter Immelt’s recommendation to boost domestic manufacturing by promoting new environmentally friendly industries and more affordable health-care products, a problem also glossed over by President Obama’s promise to create green “jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

Although more net exports would be welcome, Immelt’s belief that U.S. growth can be “driven” largely by overseas sales ignores the still formidable size of the trade gap, along with decades-old realities of the world economy. Deep structural differences between free-spending America and its savings-obsessed trade partners have been impeding U.S. exports for many years. And despite their recent complaints about resurgent U.S. protectionism, those countries have long maintained much higher trade barriers than we have. With growth overseas sluggish at best, and already protected foreign markets closing further, export-led U.S. growth seems less promising than ever.

The best solution, as Immelt advises, is to “observe the example of China”—but not its continuing obsession with exports, or its allegedly simple resolve to “invest in technology and make things.” Rather, Americans must realize that China’s priorities pay off because Beijing has aggressively exploited the lure of access to its home market.

China successfully presses American and other foreign businesses to transfer their capital and best technology to domestic firms, thus ensuring that advanced (and especially export-oriented) innovation and production develop and expand in China. Decades before the PRC added Buy Chinese requirements to its stimulus program, Beijing required foreign investors to keep raising the Chinese content of their products. Meanwhile, myriad formal and informal barriers have depressed both domestic consumption and imports.

Still the world’s importer and consumer of last resort, the United States enjoys far more market power than China. Using this leverage to attract technology and production and then to keep them at home would help replace imports (which mainly increase U.S. spending and debts) with domestically made goods (which produce growth). Even stabilizing the import share of the domestic manufactures markets over the past decade would have generated hundreds of billions of dollars of new sales annually for domestic industry—nearly the size of the Obama stimulus bill.

What specific policies would make up this new strategy and achieve these goals? Here are just a few. The administration and Congress already have moved to take advantage of the government’s huge purchases of goods and services by including Buy American provisions in the $787 billion stimulus bill. Mandatory purchases of U.S.-made goods for building or repairing infrastructure systems and government facilities should boost manufacturing output. Specifically, the policy would ensure new orders for American production of everything from steel to sensors (for so-called smart bridges and roads) to heating and cooling apparatus. But the full potential of the Buy American approach has been limited by U.S. treaty obligations under NAFTA, and by our membership in the World Trade Organization. Hence, at the very least, the United States should declare these obligations suspended until the economic crisis has been vanquished. Buy American measures also should govern all federal support programs for specific companies and industries (e.g., the auto rescue), and industries-to-be slated for subsidies (e.g., alternative energy systems and other “green” manufactures). In addition, strategies are needed for attracting advanced production to the United States in areas where Buying American is no longer possible. Meekly accepting the existing global manufacturing landscape will ensure American economic failure.

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Currency manipulation by China and other countries—mainly in East Asia—has also harmed domestic manufacturers and workers by creating wholly artificial price advantages for the manipulating countries’ goods in markets around the world. The precise extent of these unquestionably protectionist price breaks is unknowable, but most estimates range from 25 percent to 50 percent. Legislation before Congress, and endorsed last year by candidate Obama, could effectively fight such manipulation. It should be passed and signed immediately. Another gigantic but barely recognized barrier to balancing America’s manufacturing–dominated trade flows is the use of value-added taxes (VATs) by virtually all U.S. trade partners. VATs are applied only to goods consumed domestically, and since the United States lacks such measures, foreign VATs clandestinely subsidize exports to the United States by subtracting the cost of foreign governments for everything that is not consumed locally. In addition, they hamper products entering these countries from the United States, because those costs are imposed on any item consumed in that country. Of course, America’s VAT-less tax system requires all goods produced in the United States, wherever sold, to carry the costs of the U.S. government. The global VAT discrepancy may account for up to half the U.S. trade deficit in goods. Congress should respond by passing a new bill that would counter the VAT effect with a border adjustment tax on imports from VAT-using countries.

Two critical “do no harm” steps can further reduce American multinationals’ strong incentives to move production and jobs offshore. First, Washington should declare a moratorium on all new trade agreements until it figures out how to ensure that they promote more domestic production and employment. Second, if Congress does pass a climate-change bill, it must include stiff carbon tariffs. Otherwise, more and more American manufacturers will relocate to countries that lack complicated cap-and-trade programs or other limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Such a trade-policy overhaul would maximize the benefits of the largely domestic measures—for example, a variety of tax credits and increases in government research spending—urged by many mainstream manufacturing revivalists. Of course, America’s trade partners would scream bloody murder at the trade elements of this new program, and so would U.S. retailers and other importers and our offshoring multinational companies. But the persistence of the global crisis, underscored by growing talk of yet more U.S. government stimulus spending, means that fundamentally new thinking on trade will be needed for America, or any country, to have much hope of a real economic recovery.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#44

Ben Nelson is from Nebraska, same as Mutual of Omaha's 'Wild Kingdom'.

thebinxster (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#45

know what this health care bill is like?
take a spoonful of rice and coat it in a substance that will make you ill when you consume it.
then bake dog excrement on the ball of covered nutrition so that what you have is a ball of excrement and non-fatal poison with a kernel of nutrition. then give it to a starving man and tell him that he cannot remove any of the offending substances. he has to consume the excrement, the stuff that will make him ill...everything, if he wants to get to that one small portion of nourishment which he so desperately needs.
that is what this health care bill is like.

Quark (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#46

DDay,

Re: the Chris Matthews rant about liberals

I saw that, too, and was SO angry, too. I still think I may send him my response:

ChrisMatthews@MSNBC.com

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#47

Carrying the poisoned bread/food metaphor a little farther - anyone familiar with St. Anthony's Fire.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#48

Drop Medicare buy-in down to 18 and fully fund SCHIP for all human-spawn.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#49

@ binxster what a horrible and disgusting metaphor you have created there... do you seriously think that a health insurance company would actually put nourishment in that concoction for a starving man.... when a cheap placebo would suffice.

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 27 weeks ago
#50

DON'T PANIC!

The GOP and Lieberman and so forth WANT us to panic over health care. As long as reconciliation is an option, there's no reason to give up prematurely.

Who Will Stop World War III?

Thom plus logo Back in 2001, after 9/11, Congress gave the president the authority to basically wage war anywhere in the world where there were governments affiliated with Al Qaeda, the radical Sunni Muslim group that came out of the Saudi Wahhabist movement. Iran is Shia Muslim, essentially the sworn enemies of the Sunnis.

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Who rejected United States-North Korea peace talks?

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Clinton: I'll defend Israel but push for 'two-state solution

Hillary Clinton believes both Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz "missed the mark" with their approach to the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict
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