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Politics and Media Headlines 4/24/09

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Larry Summers falls asleep during Obama’s meeting with credit card executives. (Think Progress)
[Thursday] President Obama met with credit card industry officials at the White House. After the meeting, he pledged to push for a law that would offer "strong and reliable" protections for credit card users in the United States. He called the session with the industry executives "open and productive conversation." However, one person who seemed less than interested in the meeting was White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who fell asleep.

What, me worry?

Obama tells bankers: End credit card abuses (McClatchy)
Armed with letters from Americans hit hard by soaring credit card fees and rates, President Barack Obama warned credit card executives Thursday that he'd happily sign into law tough new regulations that are working their way through Congress.

Where Credit Is Due (by Jake Tapper at Political Punch, ABC News)
Sitting in the Roosevelt room in the private meeting, Mr. Obama told the executives that every day he reads 10 letters, winnowed from the thousands the White House receives…, and on average one of the 10 is someone complaining about unfair credit card company practices…

Mr. Obama outlined four core proposals that he'd like to see:
• Banning unfair rate increases and forbidding abusive fees and penalties;
• “No more fine print; no more confusing terms and conditions";
• Having every credit card company "issue a plain- vanilla, easy-to-understand, simplest-terms-possible credit card as a default credit card that the average user can feel comfortable with"; and
• Requiring more accountability in the system, more effective oversight and more effective enforcement.

Some of the attendees from the credit card industry said the meeting was more "political theater" than anything else, more for the cameras than about substance.
Right. Stopping gouging can’t possibly be about substance.—Caro

The Great Credit Card Battle To Come (by Robert Reich)
[G]etting tough on the banks' credit card lending practices has [great] appeal for the Administration, politically. It puts the White House on the side of the people rather than Wall Street, on an issue that the public is becoming more and more upset about. And the Administration's push could be enough to get reform legislation through Congress.

The bankers [were to] tell Obama [Thursday] that any new con[s]traints on credit card lending will cause the banks to reduce the amount of credit card lending they do, which will hurt the economy. But it's a weak argument because it presupposes that any lending is good for the economy -- even lending to people who don't know what they're getting into and can't repay the loans. It's the same argument banks used two years ago, when pre[s]cient observers warned that constraints had to be placed on mortgage lending practices. What may hurt the economy in the short term, we now know, may save it from even larger pitfalls to come.
I’m reminded of the arguments over fighting climate change. The anti-change forces say that any attempt to mitigate the consequences of pumping tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will slow down the economy. But sometimes making an investment slows things down in the short run while paving the way for a huge new industry to establish itself. The objections aren’t based in science or even rationality, they’re based in partisan strategery. Right wingers are afraid of any success that might be attributed to any other ideology but theirs, so they believe they must fight the fight against climate change. As Jared Diamond showed us in Collapse, when ideology stops people from facing the truth about their environment, the environment wins devastating victories.

Think about the choices: If we do something about climate change, we may slow the economy (more), but there’s a good chance of building a whole new economy with a sound basis on alternative energy sources; if we do nothing, all life on earth could be destroyed. That’s no choice at all, except to the dogmatically blind.—Caro

The evidence is starting to come in, evidence that will be denied, skewed, and rejected by the ideological right:
Cap-and-Trade Program Creates Green Jobs (Scientific American, thanks to Economist’s View)
The cap-and-trade program created by 11 Northeastern states has begun to deliver revenues that are being used to pay the salaries of new "green collar" workers

How denialism works (The Edge of the American West, thanks to Economist’s View)
The problem with Politico reporting of Amity Shlaes’s Forgotten Man that

Critics of the book, including economist Paul Krugman and historian Eric Rauchway, have challenged Shlaes’ use of data, noting, for example, that the unemployment statistics she uses do not count Works Progress Administration jobs. Shlaes defends her approach, arguing that make-work jobs are not evidence of economic growth and noting that President Barack Obama recently used the same data series she did in discussing unemployment during the Great Depression.

is not that it’s “they-said, she-said” journalism, but that it’s an inadequate representation of the truth. It’s not just Shlaes versus a famously shrill Nobelist and some dude at an ag university; it’s Shlaes versus the accepted academic consensus.

As previously noted, if you were a sufficiently honest and competent researcher located like Amity Shlaes near any number of world-class reference libraries simply out to find out the unemployment rate in the 1930s, you would not find the data Shlaes cites; you would find, in the authoritative reference work, an explanation of why it’s not best to cite the data Shlaes cites. Shlaes has to go out of her way to find other data… This may seem rather similar to the method used to deny that tobacco use causes cancer, or that human action promotes global warming: by making something seem complicated, by saying, well, there’s disagreement, Shlaes and other denialists undermine the entire academic enterprise.
Yes, and the same tactics are used to undermine the entire public discourse, as well. The national media have been helping Republicans win this wretched game for many years.—Caro

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Carolyn Kay

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