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Politics and Media Headlines 3/30/09

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Photo of the Day (by Susie at Suburban Guerrilla)

America the Tarnished (by Paul Krugman)
[A]n article in [Saturday’s] Times about the response President Obama will receive in Europe was titled “English-Speaking Capitalism on Trial.” Now, in fairness we have to say that the United States was far from being the only nation in which banks ran wild. Many European leaders are still in denial about the continent’s economic and financial troubles, which arguably run as deep as our own — although their nations’ much stronger social safety nets mean that we’re likely to experience far more human suffering. Still, it’s a fact that the crisis has cost America much of its credibility, and with it much of its ability to lead. And that’s a very bad thing.

The financial crisis has had many costs. And one of those costs is the damage to America’s reputation, an asset we’ve lost just when we, and the world, need it most.

No Givens As Obama Steps Onto World Stage (Washington Post)
[I]f the U.S. president thought his popularity would cause foreign governments to fall quickly into line behind a new American leadership, experts warn, he could be in for a rude awakening. The German government has resisted calls to deploy more combat troops to Afghanistan. Russia is pushing back against a NATO missile defense system in Poland. And the Czech prime minister last week described the U.S. plans for global economic recovery as the "road to hell."

Rising Powers Challenge U.S. on Role in I.M.F. (New York Times)
The Obama administration has made fortifying the I.M.F. one of its primary goals for the meeting of the Group of 20, which includes leading industrial and developing countries and the European Union. But China, India and other rising powers seem to believe that the made-in-America crisis has curtailed the ability of the United States to set the agenda. They view the Western-dominated fund as a place to begin staking their claim to a greater voice in global economic affairs.

UN backs new new global currency reserve (The Sunday Telegraph, U.K.)
A UNITED Nations panel of economists has proposed a new global currency reserve that would take over the US dollar-based system used for decades by international banks. The proposal follows the controversial call by China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, to create a new world currency reserve to replace the greenback as part of an overhaul of global finance. China and many developing countries blame the global crisis on US mishandling of over-extended mortgage loans and investments in them.

With the US also borrowing trillions of dollars, it risks hyperinflation, which would considerably weaken the dollar. An independently administered reserve currency could operate without conflicts posed by the US dollar and keep commodity prices more stable.

London protesters march in 1st of many G20 rallies (AP)
Thousands of people marched through European cities Saturday to demand jobs, economic justice and environmental accountability, kicking off six days of protest and action planned in the run-up to the G20 summit… In London, more than 150 groups threw their backing behind the "Put People First" march. Police said around 35,000 attended the demonstration, snaking their way across the city toward Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Protest organizers said they wanted leaders from the world's top 20 economies to adopt a more transparent and democratic economic recovery plan.

I'm mad as hell, and I'm gonna... talk about it (by Michael J. Smith at Stop Me Before I Vote Again)
The New York Times today published some ruminations -- by a professor -- of sociology! -- at Columbia -- on the absence of insurrection in America today. The sense of a sweaty brow relievedly wiped was palpable… “Fury, after all, can manifest itself in more productive ways than urban rioting or cable-TV ranting. Fury can inspire real protest, nonviolent civil disobedience, even good old-fashioned, town-hall meetings. That’s how we’ll recover our public life and perhaps help one another through this crisis — storming angrily into the streets and then, once we’re out there, actually talking to one another.”

People might get mad. They might even go out into the street! -- It's been known to happen. But with any luck at all, maybe they'll just... talk.

Here’s someone willing to do more than just talk:
Huffington Site Starts Project to Investigate the Economy (AP)
The new group would have an initial budget of $1.75 million, estimated to be enough for 10 staff journalists who would coordinate coverage with freelancers.

Is Obama wrong? (by Joan Walsh, Salon)
I've had [a feeling] for a while, that the Democrats can't get us out from under this mess until they are forced to reckon with their role in creating it. Every time I see Chuck Schumer on television pretending to be a populist scourge of Wall Street, I remember his role in blocking higher taxes for hedge fund managers and repealing Glass-Steagall. I can't help thinking that Tim Geithner is too close to the industry that took over -- and took down -- the economy to tame it. A large part of the Democrats' resurgence in the last four years, ironically, has been its success raising money from Wall Street, which undermines its populist street cred at a time like this. Fortunately for the party, Republicans are just as compromised, so it's not too late to for Democrats to take leadership in bucking the financial oligarchy and develop real solutions to the financial crisis.
Salon could take a lead role, too, Joan.—Caro

And these folks are more than just talk, too:
Our plan: Real structural change of Wall Street (A New Way Forward)
DECENTRALIZE: Any bank that's "too big to fail" means that it's too big for a free market to function. The financial corporations that caused this mess must be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place -- new banks, managed by new people. As Wall St. corporations grew bigger and bigger until they were “too big to fail,” they also became so politically powerful that they led to distorted and unfair policies that served companies, not citizens. Its not enough to try to patch up the current system. We demand serious reform that fixes the root problems in our political and economic system: excessive influence of banks, dangerous compensation systems, and massive consolidation. And we demand that the reform happen in an open and transparent manner.
Some of the sponsors are Joe Trippi and William Greider.—Caro

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Carolyn Kay

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