If you have "no place to go," come here!

Obama's new pledge: " ... with liberty and cat food for all."

letsgetitdone's picture

Barack Obama hasn't reached that point yet. But it wouldn't take very much.

All he has to do is to go along with his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and he'll drive us into a full-fledged depression with an increasingly shredded social safety net and a deeper hole to dig out of because the automatic stabilizers that both cause much of the "good deficits" we are now experiencing and contribute mightily to ending recessions will have gone the way of the safety net.

When the President was running for his present office, he assured us that he understood economics. What he failed to tell us was that the kind of economics he understood was the same kind of intellectually bankrupt form of neo-liberal economics that John McCain favored, and that has brought us increasing inequality for the past 40 years, the recent crash of 2008, and now the bank bailouts and outrageous Wall Street feasting and screwing of Main Street that we are seeing in 2009 and 2010.

That neo-liberalism commands that the global market run things, at the expense of national domestic economies, and in conflict with the desires of national politicians. Because neo-liberals wish to act as if they are still on the gold standard, they are now advocating austerity all over the world and trying to create a global economic system in which consumption power will be driven down, while neo-liberal global elites remain free to receive huge gains from unregulated international trading that, in the end, loots national currencies and imposes even more austerity on regular folks.

Obama's National Commission has been called “The Catfood Commission” by Jane Hamsher and others because, if implemented, its recommendations will drive a lot of us into a grinding poverty, while it ruins the productive capacity of this and other nations. There's not a hair's breadth worth of difference between their likely recommendations and the rampant Hooverism expressed by people like Judd Gregg, Mike Pence, Evan Bayh, and the whole cast of Congressional ne'er do wells who have sold out to corporatism and who do little more than defend those interests in Congress, while they consume the bribes they've accepted over the years from big business.

For the sake of Obama's legacy, as well as for our own sakes, we have to get this guy to wake up to his economic stupidity, get rid of corrupt advisers like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, bring in people like Jamie Galbraith and L. Randall Wray, and come to understand that if non-Government spending shrinks, further money is bled out of the economy by trade deficits, and the savings propensity of people rise because, they are, understandably, frightened; then there are only two alternatives. Either Government spending must increase to boost private savings and aggregate demand; or the economy will shrink, poverty and unemployment will grow and the futures of regular people will be destroyed. We did not elect Obama to be “The Catfood for All” President, or even to be the “Catfood for Most” President. We elected him to give us a second New Deal. It's way past time he threw the corporates under the bus, and started doing that.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability)

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Submitted by Anne on

to Obama's latest move in this strategy?

It's the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010 (PDF).

From the text of Obama’s introduction to the Act:

This proposal will be another important step in restoring fiscal discipline and making sure that Washington spends taxpayer dollars responsibly. It will provide a new tool to streamline Government programs and operations, cut wasteful Government spending, and enhance transparency and accountability to the American people. The legislation will create an expedited procedure to rescind unnecessary spending and to broadly scale back funding levels if warranted. The legislation would require the Congress to vote up or down on legislation proposed by the President to rescind funding. This new, enhanced rescission authority will not only empower the President and the Congress to eliminate unnecessary spending, but also discourage waste in the first place.


The legislation allows the President to target spending policies that do not have a legitimate and worthy public purpose by providing the President with an additional authority to propose the elimination of wasteful or excessive funding. These proposals then receive expedited consideration in the Congress and a guaranteed up-or-down vote. This legislation would also allow the President to delay funding for these projects until the Congress has had the chance to consider the changes. In addition, this proposal has been crafted to preserve the constitutional balance of power between the President and the Congress.

Is there any way this is NOT the prelude to what happens after the Cat Food Commission issues its report in December? Is there any way this isn't going to pave the way for cuts against which we will have little or no ability to protest?

Am I reading too much into this? I don't think so, and that's what makes me feel so sick. "Expedited consideration" and "guaranteed up-or-down vote" will turn this "modified" line-item veto into an all-too powerful weapon in the hands of someone who is hell-bent to cut and gut the lifelines of those who are already barely holding on.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

well, that's the message. You write exceedingly well, and cut to the chase. BTW, I've often wondered if I "know" you from... uh somewhere else, way long back. I'll send you a private message- (I'm just saying that so you'll know to look)

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Indeed! Indeed!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I hadn't seen this Anne.

I don't think Congress can give away its power to the Executive Branch in this way. Maybe they can for two years at a time, but how can they bind future Congresses.

Submitted by hipparchia on

'commission' carries the connotation of being a one-time thing.

before the health whatever reform, medicare had a panel [medpac] that made recommendations [every year iirc] on controlling costs, but congress didn't have to follow any of those recommendations, or could follow some of them, or all of them. now the new panel [aka medpac on steroids, imac, maybe a couple of other names] will present [each year?] a package of recommendations and congress will have something like 30 days or maybe 60 days to vote up or down on the entire package. and if they vote it down, they'll be required to find an equal amount of $$ to cut from some other part[s] of medicare.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

clear as day now, the earlier dem talking points re the filibuster were part of the prep for this "up or down vote."

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

but i think it is so.

btw, i did quite a bit of research (given that it was only a few weeks worth) and i'm pretty sure that most of the claims that were being made (historical and re senate rules on the filibuster) were flat out wrong.

am still planning on writing it up, but you know, other things came up and it got delayed. :)

if you want more info without waiting for me to write it up, here's my reference list (which i maintained as a public resource as i went along -- although i have have yet to add my email exchange with jack balkin.):

(for most of the research, other than the working threads, you have to skip down to the sections starting with "Academic and related sources")

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

yes, and not just bowers. also jack balkin, “knight professor of constitutional law and the first amendment” at yale law school.

here's a bit of a conversation balkin and my emails here (see comments @61, @67, @68, @69, @79, @81-86 -- sorry, we were OT on a thread of a different topic)

Submitted by lambert on

It just keeps getting worse. Not just instrumental, and becoming a meme laundry, but sloppy.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

sloppy as hell.... but why not? as far as i know, powwow and i were the only ones who did the research to confirm/deny the dem party line -- and i only did it because powwow thought it was probably incorrect. (powwow has, to my knowledge, never been wrong about congressional procedure -- it was powwow who got me started on the detailed house procedures for the year long fisa fiasco.).

to be fair, one of the the most important references was from the congressional record that was from a year that's not online. so, i had to go to the library to make photocopies from the microfiche and then i had to type it all in because the photocopy was of such poor quality i couldn't get a good ocr read.

(i also had to track down a couple of crs reports not available online via my rep's office which requested them for me and one from the senate historian's office. oh, and i called the senate parliamentarian's office for confirmation on the basics -- but really, how hard was that? it was just a few phone calls).

.... or maybe i'm wrong. but no one has been able to provide any counter evidence -- lots of assertions though, many of them easily debunked. at least i did my homework.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

lets, or whomever...

Please don't take offense at my suggestion/ question. Just take it as coming from someone (me) who is "challenged". I hope I can put this correctly, because I'm not always articulate when writing about what I half-understand. And, if this is stupid, then certainly no offense meant to you or others. Okay, gulp...

What I'd really like to see is a list of talking points and short explanations that concisely describe what (edit: and more importantly the details of why ) Peterson etc. etc. and his ilk gain personally from this "fiscal responsibility" let them eat cat food thing. I'm not questioning your conclusions at all.

But, to me, a lot of the "what's in it for them" stuff is embedded in larger blocks of information, and given I don't know all the econ terminology (uh, not) I am at loss to create talking points I can run with.

I do think it needs to be pointed out clearly and succinctly how and why they personally benefit- what's in it for them. So, give me a link if I've missed it. I need something I can use that would help me talk to the likes of e.g. the friend I alerted to the teach-in. He wrote back saying, more or less

I don't know who any of these bloggers... these people...are... I trust names I know like Paul Krugman at NYT.

I really am not articulate enough to explain to him (I mean yeah, I could cite chapter and verse, but not off the cuff... it would take a lot of research to document) why he was being stupid, and saying "Paul Krugman is an idiot" (my emotional response, and really not true) would not have served.

What I meant by the info is there in what you say would be such:

1) while neo-liberal global elites remain free to receive huge gains from unregulated international trading that, in the end, loots national currencies

2) ne'er do wells who have sold out to corporatism and who do little more than defend those interests in Congress, while they consume the bribes they've accepted over the years from big business.

Quotes 1) and 2) address different levels of the "personal gain" hierarchy, obviously. And, course 1) is the one where I need more help with the talking points.

Anyway, forgive me for being so dense, and hence the appeal. But for people who know this stuff inside and out it reads differently than to someone like me.

I remember way long ago I was giving a class lecture, and had spent a lot of time on various graphs, saying, stuff like, as you can see, blah blah diminishes when blah blah. etc. etc. So, at the end, this student raises his hand and asks "What does diminish mean?"

I feel like I'm being that student right now!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

What I'd really like to see is a list of talking points and short explanations that concisely describe what (edit: and more importantly the details of why ) Peterson etc. etc. and his ilk gain personally from this "fiscal responsibility" let them eat cat food thing. I'm not questioning your conclusions at all.

VG, I think the Peterson Group is heterogeneous and its members don't all believe the same thing, nor do they all gain the same kinds of benefits. So, I'm not sure I can put together a list of talking points on what's in it for them.

One thing's for sure, given their insistence that the Government tax or borrow to cover every dollar of spending, it's clear that they'd rather have spending cuts than tax increases. For every dollar they cut out of spending, they have one dollar less to pay in taxes. Why don't they cut military spending then? Well they're probably fools for defense expenditures thinking it proves them patriots, and some of them are probably defense contractors too. For others, it's probably a preference for cheap labor. Austerity means lots of deprived people, and deprived people make compliant workers who will accept low wages and benefits out of desperation. I could go one an on, but I think that the motives for supporting this vary across people, including some who sincerely believe that austerity is the way to go.

Submitted by lambert on

How about Peterson alone?

I seem to remember a post/story on this, but I can't lay my hand on it.

VG is quite right to ask this. In conversation, "heterogenous group" may be an end point (inner part of the onion, more sophisticated) but surely not the starting point (outer part of the onion).

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Lesley Stahl may have different motives for supporting this than Peter G. Peterson or Bill Bradley. But she didn't start it, Peterson did.

As for Bradley, he always had a sense of entitlement, even going back to the time when he wanted to deny Willis Reed a full playoff share because Reed had been injured. Never mind that Reed had jeopardized his career by coming back from that injury too soon, and giving the Knicks an emotional boost that was largely responsible for their victory of the Lakers.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Apologies in advance for such a long post. I know people don't like to read long posts....but I just had to take another stab at this.

I do think that having a concise way to explain the "why"- of what Peterson gets out of this would be really useful. I like the idea of narrowing the question, Lambert.

For someone like lets or selise (hi!) who are steeped in this, the history, the economics it's easy to pull up long, cerebral and academic explanations. No insult intended. This kind of knowledge is essential to those deeply involved. But it would be overkill in trying to talk to someone who knows even less than I do.

What I'm trying to get at is that it seems to me that the other side of this (?) or another perspective is make it personal in a certain way- in going after Peterson and his "policies". Like "look, Peterson is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. He is not your friend. He stands to gain (monetarily) in the following ways, ... because.

If I'm trying to explain this to someone with the simple tools that I have, I can't use phrases like the ones I quoted in my original comment, 1) especially because they just aren't specific enough and contain too much "already understood" as a given.

And, while it may be true that people involved do this because of a sense of entitlement, that is not so helpful as a simple talking point, because to put it in the most/ my simpleminded way, that's sort of like saying "well, they're doing it because they're self-absorbed jerks". And, saying, well, they want to take us back to a feudal society, while perhaps true, again isn't going to resonate as a talking point imho. At least not in conversations I could have. Too abstract. Too ivory tower academic.

I've always had gut/ intuitive strong reactions to political events, but until I discovered the blogosphere (the better blogosphere) way back when, I really didn't have the tools to articulate my view to others. And, those tools were the specifics I learned, to back up my "gut feeling". Not any and every thing, but key specifics.

It's hard at this point for me to give a good example of this, that will help illuminate what I'm getting at re: Peterson, fiscal "responsibility" approach. So, not in the same category, but I had a gut reaction about Obama. By that time in my bloggy education, I knew enough to go looking for specific tells I needed to engage in a pre-election discussion about him (not with folks the blogosphere) but to friends in conversation. My gut reaction early on was I didn't trust him I'm not sure why that was my first reaction- gut, intuitive, for sure. Not something I arrived at by watching his every move.

But, I wouldn't have half a chance in a political conversation if sole point was "well, I just don't trust him, its a visceral response". But, it was easy enough to find examples (knowing I had to, to be credible) of his un-trustworthiness. Specifics. Points that couldn't be easily dismantled.

Above is not a great parallel to what I am asking about re: the "what's in in for them/ him". And, perhaps too much of an aside re: my person experiences.

But, I also have learned from writing numerous grant proposals, and sitting on grant review panels, that specifics are important in making a case. (and no, I didn't go on gut reaction as the starting point in evaluating proposals) Everything has to be spelled out, documented. Hard to make parallels here too, because science is different from politics. But, from sitting on grant review panels I know that specifics are, if not all, then certainly key.

I had to review and rank proposals, as did the rest of the panel. Most of it involved really really arcane information. But some was a reflection on the investigator making the proposal. For example (in the negative), it might be that I had discovered the investigator/proposal had misrepresented his prior results or the results of others- details gained by my reading the papers cited in the proposal. Specifics, once again.

Again, it seems that much of the discussion about "fiscal responsibility" deficit hawkism I've read here and else where take the approach of looking at the outcomes for the populace, and explaining the direness of certain outcomes. Certainly valid.

But I just don't think that people not up to speed on this are likely to look more closely and start to question the status quo and take dire outcomes seriously until the underlying motives/ gain/ means for the deficit hawks are addressed and spelled out. And, since this is about money, it has to be focused on money as the entry point for discussion. So, a "sense of entitlement" isn't the starting point. Nor is an abstraction like "return to feudal society".

Monetary gain by the promulgators. To me that seems the starting point.

Oh, another example, which again, doesn't quite serve... and, it's quite simple minded but when I moved from my last place, I told the moving company that there was a steep driveway, and the moving truck needed to be able to clear the driveway. So, the crew shows up with a moving truck that does not clear the driveway. Sorry, no truck of that kind available today. So, it had to be parked yards away on the street. And, everything took 4x as long to move. But, the crew, "so helpfully" offered to come back the next day and complete the job on their own time, paid of course. Ah, what nice guys, I thought. Tough on them that the right truck wasn't available.

But, the longer I thought about it, after, I realized I'd been stiffed. (had extra evidence). They were paid by the hour by the company... and gosh, they couldn't get the right truck... and, "working on their own time" meant non-accountable to company income. So, I realized exactly what they had to gain and why. More money. And, me being stupid and stressed at the time, a nice tip (poor guys) for helping me out so much.

I had to understand what the $$ upside was for them as part of understanding why and how I'd been stiffed, prior to outrage.

Cui bono? I think that's sometimes used along with "follow the money".

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

here's an example from jamie galbraith that might work for you (i just happened to have it close at hand because i'm writing a post using it):

To put things crudely, there are two ways to get the increase in total spending that we call "economic growth." One way is for government to spend. The other is for banks to lend. Leaving aside short-term adjustments like increased net exports or financial innovation, that's basically all there is. Governments and banks are the two entities with the power to create something from nothing. If total spending power is to grow, one or the other of these two great financial motors--public deficits or private loans--has to be in action.

For ordinary people, public budget deficits, despite their bad reputation, are much better than private loans. Deficits put money in private pockets. Private households get more cash. They own that cash free and clear, and they can spend it as they like. If they wish, they can also convert it into interest-earning government bonds or they can repay their debts. This is called an increase in "net financial wealth." Ordinary people benefit, but there is nothing in it for banks.

And this, in the simplest terms, explains the deficit phobia of Wall Street, the corporate media and the right-wing economists. Bankers don't like budget deficits because they compete with bank loans as a source of growth. When a bank makes a loan, cash balances in private hands also go up. But now the cash is not owned free and clear. There is a contractual obligation to pay interest and to repay principal. If the enterprise defaults, there may be an asset left over--a house or factory or company--that will then become the property of the bank. It's easy to see why bankers love private credit but hate public deficits.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Crystal clear. Even I ! could explain that now that you've laid it out this way.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

You said:

Monetary gain by the promulgators. To me that seems the starting point.

That's one side of it. But how about preventing monetary loss, as well? Peterson and many other well-positioned people have benefited from taking advantage of their position in the neo-liberal financial system. If I were them I'd be very afraid of a second New Deal? What if it were successful and we returned to full employment and began to experience inflation? Then taxes would have to go up.

If aggressive people-oriented administrations were facing that kind of situation, what would they do ward off inflation pressures. I know I'd recommend "RICH PEOPLE FIRST," to combat inflation. I think one of things Peterson is doing is jumping the gun on austerity now, to avoid very high progressive taxation later.

The other thing is that the Peterson-types and centrist politicians of all sorts don't want to see another successful New Deal-like Administration, because if it got one, their game of advocating privatization and Government constraint would be up. They'd lose status, power, and political position.

I also agree with selise's remarks and the quotation from Jamie Galbraith below.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I was I suppose implicitly putting "not losing money" in the gain column, tho not getting quite to it.

But it's much better as you suggest to round it out- explicitly - what do they have to gain, what do they have to lose. Inextricably linked.


their game of advocating privatization and Government constraint would be up. They'd lose status, power, and political position.

But at the bottom of it, they'd lose these because for the most part, having status, power and political position in the US depend on having a great deal of money- at least in the context we're discussing. Money first- other things follow.

Keep in mind I'm not questioning your take by keeping on about this... It's just that I need ? the experts to explain this using really simple (albeit not simple minded) points that I can use.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

we're all just students here.... unless one of the real experts shows up.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

i think in many cases it comes down to a desire for a feudal society (something about the "right order" of things and people).

so, rentier privilege for the lords and debt peonage for the masses (with some technocrats to keep the whole thing running).

since i had this open last night for another comment, here's michael hudson: Orwellian Doublethink: "Nationalize the banks." "Free Markets."

As public relations advocates for the vested interests and special rentier privilege, today’s "neoliberal" advocates of "free" markets seek to maximize economic rent – the free lunch of price in excess of cost-value, not to free markets from rentier charges.

Neoliberal denunciations of public regulation and taxation as "socialism" is really an attack on classical political economy – the "original" liberalism whose ideal was to free society from the parasitic legacy of feudalism. A truly socialized Treasury policy would be for banks to lend for productive purposes that contribute to real economic growth, not merely to increase overhead and inflate asset prices by enough to extract interest charges. Fiscal policy would aim to minimize rather than maximizing the price of home ownership and doing business, by basing the tax system on collecting the rent that is now being paid out as interest. Shifting the tax burden off wages and profits onto rent and interest was the core of classical political economy in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Progressive Era and Social Democratic reform movements in the United States and Europe prior to World War I. But this doctrine and its reform program has been buried by the rhetorical smokescreen organized by financial lobbyists seeking to muddy the ideological waters sufficiently to mute popular opposition to today’s power grab by finance capital and monopoly capital. Their alternative to true nationalization and socialization of finance is debt peonage, oligarchy and neo-feudalism.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

this is true, in many cases. It's amazing how quickly people who have been fortunate to say the least, celebrities, people who hit it lucky in business by being at the right place at the right time, elected officials, develop a sense of entitlement, that what has happened to them is primarily a result of their own efforts and of the natural order of things and that they deserve to be able to arrange things to protect what they've gained from loss by arranging social, economic, political, and cultural institutions to continue to benefit them.

Tendencies toward things like Feudalism, Plutocracy, and Oligarchy are very strong in all human organizations and starting sometime in the 1970s we forgot the lessons we had learned about that during the 1920s and 30s. By the 1970s we had been confronted with good examples of the failures of Government and the costs of Bureaucracy. Government fell sharply in our esteem between 1965 and 1975, while business, which had been relatively well-regulated up to then no longer was producing fresh examples of extreme corruption and malfeasance. It was in the midst of those trends and Jimmy Carter's failures as President that Reagan was able to succeed in accelerating the trend toward plutocracy that Jimmy Carter had begun by ignoring working class problems and prioritizing attempts at budget balancing over jobs programs, universal health care, and economic liberalism.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Sitting there in The White House telling Barack, "Let Them Eat Catfood?"

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I'm confused, what does Michelle have to do with it? Other than attempting to make a nebulous connection to the historical Versailles, and a legend that's not true?

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Just trying to make the nebulous connection, as you correctly called it for the sake of a little bad gallows humor.

Actually, I know very little about what Michelle thinks. She seems quite sympatico. On the other hand, in her public statements she's not exactly Eleanor Roosevelt. But, then again, who is?

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I was about to crash, when I caught your comment.

It's very very helpful.... really, it could be turned into the kind of "talking points" I was looking for.

Thanks for taking my request seriously.

Uh, right now, it's "over and out" time for me. But, thanks as ever.


Submitted by jawbone on

downsize budgets, cut back on its social safety net, loosen employment regulations to allow easier hiring and firing, lessen pensions and unemployment payments, etc.

That's what the attacks on Greece and Spain, Portugal are all about: Shock and Awe. And fear. The politicians and the public must be scared enough that they'll lose everything that they'll be willing to give up all they've managed to build up for the whole society. The interviewer and guest both agreed fear was the necessary component!

(Ireland gets much less mention, partially bcz it is imposing Draconian cuts on its social safety nets already -- so far only scuffles have resulted.) The guy was praising Denmark and another country for making cuts.

The interviewer asked the exec whether this meant Europe and its employment system would have to become more the the United States (with its hidden 22% unemployment, fewer and fewer pensions, no universal health care, etc.). The answer was yes.

I heard this while having trouble getting to sleep -- was I dreaming? -- iirc, the guy was an exec for a very high end consumer company. No wonder he has so little concern for the lower earners! He needs more discretionary income for the uberwealthy to increase sales....

I have to do RL stuff, but will look for link when I get back.

Found podcast: Euro and the Markets 25 May 10 -- 10 minutes. Interviewee is CEO of Louis Vuitton.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

if you will give me the first few words of the start and the last few words of the end of the clip you want, i can easily cut out the piece you want.

bungalowkitchens's picture
Submitted by bungalowkitchens on

An epigram (author unknown) from 19th century Great Britain:

Some men wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called work.

Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called trade.

Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called finance.

In other words, parasites. I've always said the job of politicians is to keep the public focused on fighting over tiny slices of the pie- to distract them from the fact that there is a whole freaking table overloaded with pies in the back room!

As lambert said, there is a free lunch, but we're not getting it.