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Moyers & Company Program Series On Crony Capitalism ~ How Wall Street and Washington Got Together And Stacked The Deck Against The Rest Of Us.

‘Crony Capitalism’ – A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.

All text via http://billmoyers.com/

Moyers & Company 101: On Winner Take All Politics – Full Show

In its premiere episode, Moyers & Company dives into one of the most important and controversial issues of our time: How Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us.

Bill’s guests – Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, argue that America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.

How, in a nation as wealthy as America, can the economy simply stop working for people at large, while super-serving those at the very top? Through exhaustive research and analysis, the political scientists Hacker and Pierson — whom Bill regards as the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” of economics — detail important truths behind a 30-year economic assault against the middle class.

Who’s the culprit? “American politics did it– far more than we would have believed when we started this research,” Hacker explains. “What government has done and not done, and the politics that produced it, is really at the heart of the rise of an economy that has showered huge riches on the very, very, very well off.”

Bill considers their book the best he’s seen detailing “how politicians rewrote the rules to create a winner-take-all economy that favors the 1% over everyone else, putting our once and future middle class in peril.”

The show includes an essay on how Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread belief that politics no longer works for ordinary people, including footage we took at the OWS rally from October – December 2011.

Moyers & Company Show 102: On Crony Capitalism – Full Show

This weekend, continuing its sharp multi-episode focus on the intersection of money and politics, Moyers & Company explores the tight connection between Wall Street and the White House with David Stockman – yes, that David Stockman — former budget director for President Reagan.

Now a businessman who says he was “taken to the woodshed” for telling the truth about the administration’s tax policies, Stockman speaks candidly with Bill Moyers about how money dominates politics, distorting free markets and endangering democracy. “As a result,” Stockman says, “we have neither capitalism nor democracy. We have crony capitalism.”

Stockman shares details on how the courtship of politics and high finance have turned our economy into a private club that rewards the super-rich and corporations, leaving average Americans wondering how it could happen and who’s really in charge.

“We now have an entitled class of Wall Street financiers and of corporate CEOs who believe the government is there to do… whatever it takes in order to keep the game going and their stock price moving upward,” Stockman tells Moyers.

Also on the show, Moyers talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter and columnist Gretchen Morgenson on how money and political clout enable industries to escape regulation and enrich executives at the top.

Moyers & Company Show 103: How power and influence helped big banks rewrite the rules of our economy. – Full Show

Big banks are rewriting the rules of our economy to the exclusive benefit of their own bottom line. But how did our political and financial class shift the benefits of the economy to the very top, while saddling us with greater debt and tearing new holes in the safety net? Bill Moyers talks with former Citigroup Chairman John Reed and former Senator Byron Dorgan to explore a momentous instance: how the late-90’s merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group – and a friendly Presidential pen — brought down the Glass-Steagall Act, a crucial firewall between banks and investment firms which had protected consumers from financial calamity since the aftermath of the Great Depression. In effect, says Moyers, they “put the watchdog to sleep.”

There’s no clearer example of the collusion between government and corporate finance than the Citicorp-Travelers merger, which — thanks to the removal of Glass-Steagall — enabled the formation of the financial behemoth known as Citigroup. But even behemoths are vulnerable; when the meltdown hit, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs, and the taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it.

Senator Dorgan tells Moyers, “If you were to rank big mistakes in the history of this country, that was one of the bigger ones because it has set back this country in a very significant way.”
Now, John Reed regrets his role in the affair, and says lifting the Glass-Steagall protections was a mistake. Given the 2008 meltdown, he’s surprised Wall Street still has so much power over Washington lawmakers.

“I’m quite surprised the political establishment would listen to groups that have been so discredited,” Reed tells Moyers. “It wasn’t that there was one or two or institutions that, you know, got carried away and did stupid things. It was, we all did…. And then the whole system came down.”

How Wall Street and Washington got together and stacked the deck against the rest of us.

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And With A Stroke of The Pen The U.S. Joins The Civilized World

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (544MB) | mp3 (25MB)

Via Whitehouse: This morning the President made it official: things are going to change quite a bit between Americans and their health insurance companies.  The President signed health reform into law, with a package of fixes not far behind, and in the process created a future for the country in which Americans and small businesses are in control of their own health care, not the insurance industry.

Having expressed all due admiration for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leader Harry Reid, and those Members of Congress who showed the courage to stand up to an avalanche of misinformation and insurance industry attacks, the President explained what the signing was really about:

Today, I’m signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days.

I’m signing it for Ryan Smith, who’s here today.  He runs a small business with five employees.  He’s trying to do the right thing, paying half the cost of coverage for his workers.  This bill will help him afford that coverage.

I’m signing it for 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, who’s also here.  (Applause.)  Marcelas lost his mom to an illness.  And she didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford the care that she needed.  So in her memory he has told her story across America so that no other children have to go through what his family has experienced.  (Applause.)

I’m signing it for Natoma Canfield.  Natoma had to give up her health coverage after her rates were jacked up by more than 40 percent.  She was terrified that an illness would mean she’d lose the house that her parents built, so she gave up her insurance.  Now she’s lying in a hospital bed, as we speak, faced with just such an illness, praying that she can somehow afford to get well without insurance.  Natoma’s family is here today because Natoma can’t be.  And her sister Connie is here.  Connie, stand up.  (Applause.)

I’m signing this bill for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations — from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman, to Lyndon Johnson, from Bill and Hillary Clinton, to one of the deans who’s been fighting this so long, John Dingell.  (Applause.)  To Senator Ted Kennedy.  (Applause.)  And it’s fitting that Ted’s widow, Vicki, is here — it’s fitting that Teddy’s widow, Vicki, is here; and his niece Caroline; his son Patrick, whose vote helped make this reform a reality.  (Applause.)

I remember seeing Ted walk through that door in a summit in this room a year ago — one of his last public appearances.  And it was hard for him to make it.  But he was confident that we would do the right thing.

Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable.  With all the punditry, all of the lobbying, all of the game-playing that passes for governing in Washington, it’s been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing; to wonder if there are limits to what we, as a people, can still achieve.  It’s easy to succumb to the sense of cynicism about what’s possible in this country.

But today, we are affirming that essential truth -– a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself –- that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations.  (Applause.)  We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust.  We don’t fall prey to fear.  We are not a nation that does what’s easy.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not how we got here.

We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its responsibilities.  We are a nation that does what is hard.  What is necessary.  What is right.  Here, in this country, we shape our own destiny.  That is what we do.  That is who we are.  That is what makes us the United States of America.

And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.  (Applause.)  And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country.

So, thank you.  Thank you.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.

All right, I would now like to call up to stage some of the members of Congress who helped make this day possible, and some of the Americans who will benefit from these reforms.  And we’re going to sign this bill.

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Posted by on March 23, 2010 in Diabetes, Health, Political

 

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Federation of American Scientists: GAO: White House Erred on Intelligence Oversight

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Via ~ Secrecy News: Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

The Obama Administration presented “several misstatements of law and fact” in its March 15 letter opposing legislation to enhance the role of the Government Accountability Office in intelligence oversight, the head of the GAO said in a letter to congressional intelligence committees yesterday.

The GAO letter (pdf) said that neither the Senate nor the House version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization act would fundamentally alter the status quo with respect to the GAO, as the White House letter (pdf) had indicated, but would simply bolster the oversight authority that the GAO already has, enabling it to overcome the obstacles placed in its way by the executive branch.

“The proposed legislative provisions in essence reaffirm GAO’s existing authority in order to address the lack of cooperation GAO has received from certain elements of the IC [intelligence community] in carrying out work at the specific request of the intelligence committees, and other committees of jurisdiction as defined by the rules of the Senate and House,” wrote Acting Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro in a March 18 letter obtained by Secrecy News.

“GAO acknowledges and does not seek to displace the special relationship between the congressional intelligence committees and the IC,” he wrote.

“However, GAO does not agree with the Administration’s view, originating in a 1988 opinion of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, that the creation of the congressional intelligence oversight structure implicitly exempted reviews of intelligence activities from the scope of GAO’s existing audit authority.”

The executive branch’s interpretation of the law “has resulted in GAO frequently being unable to obtain the access or cooperation necessary to provide useful information to Congress on matters involving the IC,” Mr. Dodaro wrote.

“Even where the matters under evaluation are well outside the scope of traditional intelligence activities… GAO has encountered resistance.”

“While intelligence oversight poses unique challenges, GAO can play an important role in such oversight, and that role is well within our authority and capability,” he wrote.

GAO has no independent stake in intelligence oversight and has plenty of other work to do anyway. The question is whether Congress wants to take advantage of the investigative and analytical resources that GAO has to offer in order to improve intelligence oversight. If it does, then the pending legislation would help to clear away the barriers imposed by the executive branch.

“Should either the Senate or House version of the GAO provision at issue become law,” Mr. Dodaro wrote, “I believe that the reaffirmation of GAO’s authorities would help better position GAO to do the type of work that has been requested of us in the past and to respond to the interests of Congress in this realm in the future.”

 
 

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Gas Pricing Needs to be set at $7 a Gallon? Possibly…

SINDYA N. BHANOO of the New York Times blog, DotEarth, writes in Fuel Taxes Must Rise, Harvard Researchers Say, that in order to meet the Obama administration’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of driving must increase.

This, writes Bhanoo, is according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector."

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon. And that increase in price will come in the form of a tax.

In the modeling, it turned out that issuing tax credits could backfire, while taxes on fuel proved beneficial.

“Tax credits don’t address how much people use their cars,” said Ross Morrow, one of the report’s authors. “In reverse, they can make people drive more.”

Researchers said that vehicle miles traveled will increase by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2030 unless policymakers increase fuel taxes.

Abstract: "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector."

Even as the US debates an economy-wide CO2 cap-and-trade policy the transportation sector remains a significant oil security and climate change concern. Transportation alone consumes the majority of the US’s imported oil and produces a third of total US Greenhouse-Gas (GHG) emissions. This study examines different sector-specific policy scenarios for reducing GHG emissions and oil consumption in the US transportation sector under economy-wide CO2 prices. The 2009 version of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), a general equilibrium model of US energy markets, enables quantitative estimates of the impact of economy-wide CO2 prices and various transportation-specific policy options. We analyze fuel taxes, continued increases in fuel economy standards, and purchase tax credits for new vehicle purchases, as well as the impacts of combining these policies. All policy scenarios modeled fail to meet the Obama administration’s goal of reducing GHG emissions 14% below 2005 levels by 2020. Purchase tax credits are expensive and ineffective at reducing emissions, while the largest reductions in GHG emissions result from increasing the cost of driving, thereby damping growth in vehicle miles traveled.

Source:

Morrow, W. Ross, Kelly Sims Gallagher, Gustavo Collantes, and Henry Lee. "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector." Energy Policy 38, no. 3 (March 2010): 1305-1320.

SINDYA N. BHANOO, New York Times, DotEarth, Fuel Taxes Must Rise, Harvard Researchers Say

 

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Remarks by the President on Health Care Reform

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (250MB) | mp3 (18MB)

Story via The White House blog: Moving Forward to Put the American People Ahead of Insurance Companies

Today the President made it exceedingly clear that he intends to move forward on reform to put Americans in control of their health care, and explained once again why:

Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a serious problem for America.  And we agree that if we do nothing -– if we throw up our hands and walk away -– it’s a problem that will only grow worse.  Nobody disputes that.  More Americans will lose their family’s health insurance if they switch jobs or lose their job.  More small businesses will be forced to choose between health care and hiring.  More insurance companies will deny people coverage who have preexisting conditions, or they’ll drop people’s coverage when they get sick and need it most.  And the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink our government deeper and deeper and deeper into debt.  On all of this we agree.

So the question is, what do we do about it?

The answer to that question, of course, has been at least a year in the making – countless hearings, meetings, and conversations have brought the best ideas from both sides to the surface, and the President’s proposal includes a broad array of Republican suggestions in addition to Democratic ones.

President Obama speaks about health care reform 3.03

President Barack Obama speaks about health care reform in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

However, the President also confronted the fact that there is a fundamental disagreement on how to deal with some core elements of the problem. Explaining that just as he has rejected one extreme of the spectrum that calls for an actual government takeover of health care, so too does he disagree with the other side:

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those, and this includes most Republicans in Congress, who believe the answer is to loosen regulations on the insurance industry — whether it’s state consumer protections or minimum standards for the kind of insurance they can sell.  The argument is, is that that will somehow lower costs.  I disagree with that approach.  I’m concerned that this would only give the insurance industry even freer rein to raise premiums and deny care.

So I don’t believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America.  I believe it’s time to give the American people more control over their health care and their health insurance.  I don’t believe we can afford to leave life-and-death decisions about health care to the discretion of insurance company executives alone.  I believe that doctors and nurses and physician assistants like the ones in this room should be free to decide what’s best for their patients.  (Applause.)

The President spoke at length about the merits of his proposal, from ending insurance company abuses, to the fact that it is paid for will reduce the deficit (concepts largely abandoned in recent years), to the fact that 30 million people will be covered and millions of middle class families will be able to afford the peace of mind of quality insurance for the first time.

He also called for an up or down vote in the next few weeks just as has been given to many health care bills before and to the Bush tax cuts, pledging that “from now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform.”

He closed with an explanation of what is motivating him:

So at stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right. (Applause.) And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.

Here is the entire press release:

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Posted by on March 3, 2010 in Health, Political

 

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Health Care Summit: So What Exactly Was Accomplished?

President Barack Obama discusses a point with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the health insurance reform legislation meeting at Blair House in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) Surprising perhaps no one, common ground was a scarce commodity at Thursday’s all-day health care summit in Washington. President Obama implored in his opening remarks, "Let’s talk about some areas where we disagree and see if we can bridge those gaps". But by the end of the session more than seven hours later, it was clearer than ever that the two parties have fundamentally — and irreconcilably — different views of how to go about fixing the nation’s health care system.

"We just can’t afford this," said House minority whip Eric Cantor, referring to the 2400 page, $125 billion a year healthcare plan, while John Boehner, the House Republican leader, called it "a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country."

In contrast to the Democratic legislation, House Republicans have put forward a healthcare bill that does not set minimum national standards for health plans, does not require all Americans to buy coverage and does not provide subsidies to help them.

As a result, the bill is substantially less costly than the Democratic plans and does not include the tax hikes and Medicare cuts that Democrats are proposing to offset the cost of expanding coverage.

The GOP legislation, which many Republicans have touted as a more reasonable, incremental approach, would insure only 3 million additional people over the next decade compared with 30 million more in the Democratic legislation, the Congressional Budget Office has found.

"We’d love to have a five-page bill," Obama countered to the Republicans who arrived toting copies of the massive Senate-passed legislation. "It would save an awful lot of work. The reason we didn’t do it is because it turns out that baby steps don’t get you to the place where people need to go."

But the White House said the summit was not intended as a vehicle to start the healthcare debate all over again, and as such the Democratic leaders have apparently decided to go forward alone on health care, although it remains to be seen whether they will be able to muster enough of their own votes to get it done.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to back a major overhaul of U.S. health care even if it threatens their political careers, a call to arms that underscores the issue’s massive role in this election year.

Lawmakers sometimes must enact policies that, even if unpopular at the moment, will help the public, Pelosi said in an interview being broadcast Sunday the ABC News program "This Week."

"We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress," she said. "We’re here to do the job for the American people."

It took courage for Congress to pass Social Security and Medicare, which eventually became highly popular, she said, "and many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill."

The procedural and political hurdles ahead are formidable, and with each new poll showing public confidence slipping away – even if for very disparate reasons – they know that time is not on their side.

Yet, they say, they believe that if they can pass the bill, they can sell it too. Once voters can look beyond the messy political process and deal making that it took to get this far, they may once again be able to focus on the actual substance of the legislation, which still enjoys broad support.

That will be a tough sell judging from the latest Gallup poll suggesting that if an agreement is Americans Tilt Against Democrats' Plans if Summit Fails - Gallup.com not reached, Americans by a 49% to 42% margin oppose rather than favor Congress passing a healthcare bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate. By a larger 52% to 39% margin, Americans also oppose the Democrats in the Senate using a reconciliation procedure to avoid a possible Republican filibuster and pass a bill by a simple majority vote.

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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Economic News, Health, Political

 

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The President’s Proposal For Health Care

Over the past year the House and the Senate have been working on an effort to provide health insurance reform that lowers costs, guarantees choices, and enhances quality health thumbnail care for all Americans. Building on that year-long effort, the President has now put forth a proposal that incorporates the work the House and the Senate have done and adds additional ideas from Republican members of Congress. The President has long said he is open to any good ideas for reforming our health care system, and he looks forward to discussing ideas for further improvements from Republicans and Democrats at an open, bipartisan meeting on Thursday. 

The proposal will make health care more affordable, make health insurers more accountable, expand health coverage to all Americans, and make the health system sustainable, stabilizing family budgets, the Federal budget, and the economy:

  • It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today.  This helps over 31 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more. 
  • It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.  
  • It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.  
  • It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

Key Provisions in the President’s Proposal:

The President’s Proposal builds off of the legislation that passed the Senate and improves on it by bridging key differences between the House and the Senate as well as by incorporating Republican provisions that strengthen the proposal.

One key improvement, for example, is eliminating the Nebraska FMAP provision and providing significant additional Federal financing to all States for the expansion of Medicaid.  For America’s seniors, the proposal completely closes the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap.  It strengthens the Senate bill’s provisions that make insurance affordable for individuals and families, while also strengthening the provisions to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid to save taxpayer dollars.  The threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans will be raised from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500 and will start in 2018 for all such plans.  And another important idea included is improving insurance protections for consumers and creating a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to review and rein in unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.

Summaries of Key Elements of the President’s Proposal:

Republican Ideas Included in the President’s Proposal

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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in Health, Political

 

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