“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Poverty in America

Robert Reich Explains the Economy

Tea Party Pubic Service Announcement

January 24, 2009

Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief #248 - January 13, 2009

Without Adequate Public Spending, a Catastrophic Recession for Some
by Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz

This analysis sketches a picture of how much worse we can expect things to get - both for the nation as a whole and for groups of Americans that are already suffering depression-level unemployment - unless the new administration and Congress act quickly with a  recovery package that is big enough and well-targeted enough to counteract these trends.  The authors recommend government spending to the order of $600 billion per year for the next two years to head off the otherwise inevitable catastrophe.  Their analysis notes that without timely and adequate government intervention:
  • Overall unemployment, after peaking at about 10.2% in mid-2010, could still be as high as 7.6% four years from now
  • Underemployment could reach 17.9% overall in 2010 (18.8% for women), affecting over 27 million workers.
  • More than one out of every three working Americans would experience unemployment or underemployment at some point during 2010.
  • Nearly one in five African Americans in the labor force would be unemployed (18.2%).  More than half of all black teens would be jobless.
  • Hispanic unemployment would reach 13.1% overall, and more than one-third among teens.
  • Unemployment would reach a record high of 5.1% among the college-educated, 1.2 points above the previous high of 3.9% in the depths of the 1980's recession.
  • All families would experience wage declines because of weakened labor market conditions and reduced hours and wages.  On average, middle-income families would earn about $4,700 less per year in 2010 than in 2007 (a loss of 7.7%). Low-income families would lose an average of 9.8% or nearly $1,600, per year.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Economic Recovery Watch

New Analysis Shows Strong Job Effects from Including Aid for Hard-Pressed Families and States in a Recovery Package
by Chad Stone

Temporary programs to protect people who are the most vulnerable in a deep recession will have a powerful impact on job creation relative to their cost, based on an analysis of the job creation effects of the proposed Obama economic recovery plan by Christina Romer, who will be chair of the President's Council on Economic ADvisors, and Jared Bernstein, who will be the Chief Economist in the Office of the Vice-President.  Their analysis issued January 9, also finds that substantial job creation will result form fiscal relief to states facing large budget shortfalls.  These findings are consistent with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis issued last week on the importance for job creation of including such measures in an economic recovery package.   PDF of Full Report

January 18, 2009

Truth and Reconciliation

President-elect Obama has spoken about the need to move forward and not to look backward when it comes to investigations and possible criminal indictments of the excesses of the Bush administration.   While Mr. Obama's election does indeed signal a time of hope and a collective looking forward, it should not also mean that the American people do not deserve to know that all people, including elected officials, are bound by the laws of the land.
There appears to be little doubt that President Bush and members of his administration have violated the Constitution and have played fast and loose with the truth.  Perhaps they have not committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," but at the very least they have violated the public trust.  A few such instances that come to mind include: fabricating the threat of weapons of mass destruction to justify an illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign country, wasting billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for the"reconstruction" of Iraq, politicizing the Justice Department with appointments and prosecutions based on political ideology and loyalty to the President, rather than qualifications.  Then there is the touchy subject of torture.  Now that president-elect Obama's nominee for attorney General, Eric Holder, has defined waterboarding as torture, and Mr. Bush has admitted to authorizing these techniques, doesn't this obligate the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute any criminal act that it finds?
Looking forward does not preclude addressing wrongs that have previously been committed, as President-elect Obama would have us believe.  In fact, isn't our entire criminal justice system based upon looking backward?  Doesn't every criminal investigation and prosecution depend upon our ability to look backward and determine whether  or not a crime has been committed and how and by whom?  Don't we, as a society, expect that if a crime has been committed that the police and the courts will do everything within their powers to bring the perpetrator to justice?  In fact don't we believe that victims and survivors of crime have the right to see the perpetrators brought to justice as a way of obtaining closure?
Well then the obvious question is don't we as a society deserve the same effort at closure?  How can we expect to move forward, if we don't reveal, understand and come to some level of closure with the excesses and atrocities that were committed in our name? How de we honor the 4,000 Americans and more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives in a reckless and illegal war, if we act as if nothing has happened?
While Mr. Obama is looking to the past to role models such as Abraham Lincoln and FDR to help him chart a course through this difficult time, perhaps there is another role model that he should look to, Nelson Mandela.    After helping to free his fellow citizens from the long, dark night of apartheid, he did not call for retribution or punishment, even in the face of a horrific history of oppression, abuse and murder.  Mr Mandela understood that to move forward, South Africans would first have to come to terms with their past.  Rather than seeking retribution and continuing to turn black against white, the new majority South African government embarked on a course to seek truth and reconciliation.
In George Bush' thirteen-minute farewell address, and in his final press conference, he blamed all of his administration's failures on others and took no responsibility for its excesses.  If we do not hold him accountable, how then do we tach our children, and indeed our national leaders, to be accountable?  Without consequences for their actions, even if the consequence is merely public acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility,   the message that is sent is that it is perfectly acceptable to abuse power and privilege and to flaunt the law to push one's own personal agenda.  We cannot let that be the enduring legacy of the Bush administration.  As President, Barack Obama and his Justice Department will have an obligation to investigate and surface the many wrongs of the Bush years.  Then, and only then, after the truth is revealed, can the decision be made whether or not to prosecute, and the nation can move on.
As Paul Krugman wrote in his op ed column in the January 16th New York Times Forgive and Forget?  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/opinion/16krugman.html
 "to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable.  So Mr Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime.  Consequences aside, that's not a decision he has the right to make."
Perhaps it is time for a healing of the national psyche.  As George Bush leaves office he leaves in his wake tattered Constitutional protections and a legacy of flaunting the law and common decency, both rendered subservient to an agenda that was both politically and ideologically driven.  Moving forward includes understanding what has happened in the past to avoid making the same mistakes.  In this case it is not so much about making the same mistakes, hopefully we all have learned from our mistake and will not elect and then re-elect another president from the same mold as George Bush.  But allowing criminals who have squandered our national trust and leave a trail of wreckage in their path to walk away without accepting responsibility, sends the wrong message - that we are a country that believes its elected leaders are indeed above the law and that we as a society are powerful enough to flaunt international law.
Let's apply the lessons learned from Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa by creating our own Truth and Reconciliations Commission, helping us learn from and heal the past, so that we can move forward together.