Friday, February 25, 2011

Billionaires Tapped by Obama to Perform in Trickle-Down Theater

The very same  corporate billionaires sitting on nearly two thirds of the nation's wealth, the plutocrats responsible for the biggest wealth disparity in American history, are now being asked to hang out at the White House and solve the unemployment problem.  President Obama convened the group for its first meeting on Thursday.  His opening remarks were an exercise in wishy-washiness - even for him.  Let's face it: his heart was just not in what he was saying to this biggest concentration of living, breathing  mega-wealth in purportedly human form seen in D.C. since....I dunno, last week?  Let his words speak for themselves:


"So my main purpose here today at this first meeting I think is to listen, to get a sense of where all of you think the economy is right now, what kinds of steps we need to be taking.  As I talked about during the State of the Union, we want to remove any barriers and any impediments that are preventing you from success and from growth.  At the same time, we want to put a challenge to America’s businesses that even as we're working with you to streamline regulations, to reform our tax system, to take other steps that have been sitting on the shelf for quite some time under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, we want to make sure that we're also putting a little pressure on you guys to figure out how do we make sure that the economy is working for everybody; how do we make sure that every child out there who’s willing to work hard is going to be able to succeed; how do we make certain that working families across the country are sharing in growing productivity and that we're not simply creating an economy in which one segment of it is doing very well, but the rest of the folks are out there treading water.
So, Jeff, again, I want to thank you for your extraordinary work.  I want to thank all of you for agreeing to participate.
Last point I'll make is that I'm not interested in photo ops and I'm not interested in more meetings.  I've got enough photo ops and enough meetings.  I have a surplus of that.  So I expect this to be a working group in which we are coming up with some concrete deliverables.  I don't think that we have to be trying to hit homeruns every time.  I think if we hit some singles and doubles, if we find some very specific things that this group can help us on and we can work on together, then we can build on that success, and in the aggregate, over time, this will have really made a difference at a critical juncture in our economy."

President Obama meets with CJC
The Non-Photo Op Photo Op

Members of the White House Council on Jobs and Competiveness:  (comprised of 19 CEOs, two union leaders, two academics, one chief operating officer, one investment banker and one expert in entrepreneurship. Nineteen of the members are men, seven are women.)


Jeffrey Immelt, Chair
Across town, the U.S. Conference of Mayors was convening to discuss the unemployment crisis at its own, separate summit - this one addressing work opportunities for low-income people, a demographic apparently not on the CEOs' agenda at the White House.  Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who did not speak to the elite panel of CEOs, addressed the mayors' group, as did Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Obama was a no-show.  I don't think he's had a meeting with, or about, real live unemployed, poverty-stricken people yet.  Correct me if I'm wrong.


**Update -- the mayors have been invited to the White House for a meet and greet with the President tomorrow (Feb. 26).

27 comments:

Draft Spitzer said...

Great photo. I think I've seen this scene before. It's: "Bene, Don Corleone, I need a man with powerful friends. I need a million dollars. I need all those politicians you carry around in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes."
That's the line as Puzo wrote it. If you want a feminist take on it, Molly Haskell wrote a knockout essay when the film turned 25, in 1997. But Puzo himself always said the inspiration for Don Corleone was his single, immigrant mother, raising a multitude of children in Hell's Kitchen.
eva

turnipseed said...

There isn't a shortage of business opportunities. The corporations ARE hiring, just not in this country. Their record profits continue; why is the President worried about THEIR well-being?

On another note, Jeremy Bird now wants a contribution to help get those boots on the ground. Only $3! He says more people responded to the email you wrote about yesterday, than "ever before". I told him to ask THEM for the $3, because I'm giving mine to the protesters in Madison--where I am also headed tomorrow morning.

Anne Lavoie said...

I saw Jeff Immelt interviewed on NBR(PBS) after this meeting, and he sounded like it was the biggest waste of his time. He was very uninterested and unenthusiastic sounding, like he regretted getting involved.

'Turnipseed' asked why the Prez is worried about THEIR well-being. Here is what I think.

Obama pretty much said this to them: What do you want so that I can give it to you in exchange for your votes and campaign money for my re-election?

Knowing, as we all do, that they are doing just fine, how else could he possibly couch his request for campaign support? He is simply trying to figure out what it is that he can give them and serve it to them on a silver platter. Like making a Christmas wish list.

Since WHEN has Obama cared about jobs over the past 2 years? Only AFTER he kicked off his Winning the Future re-election campaign. NOW he is going to all 50 states ostensibly on behalf of jobs, but really just HIS job as he defines it: Re-election.

I wish we could fire him NOW. He does not deserve the office of President and proves it more every day.

annenigma

James F Traynor said...

We've been had. We know it. But, damn it, we can't do anything about it.

emcphd said...

Well done!

Kate Madison said...

I know my comment will not be well received, but it is where I am at the moment. I call my willingness to vote for Obama--not campaign for him or give $$--the "lesser of two evils strategy." Not original with me, for sure, but I cannot think of anything better. If someone can convince me that there is a viable progressive Independent willing to challenge Obama or a Republican with an IQ above 86, an anti-free market philosophy, and who also does not want us to surrender to Christ, I will take another look.

Meanwwhile, Barry we hardly knew ye! But you appear to be the most decent of them all. Just please don't come calling! Okay? Okay.

Kate Depoe

Draft Spitzer said...

Kate, How could I not "receive well" your decision? I disagree with it -deeply - but these decisions are personal. You really do see the GOP as inherently evil. I really do "see" (to the extent I can see anything) that there isn't significant daylight in the actions (not the rhetoric) of the two parties.

I admit I feel a connection to those crazy Athenians who developed the first democracy. It was then, and still is, a profoundly radical idea. We kid ourselves to think our democracy is stronger, or more passionate, than the Athenians.

I just can't vote for "Barry." but the freedom to write Eliot Spitzer on my 2012 ballot - that means a great deal to me.

To me, it's not a wasted vote.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
Just read your comment on Bob Herbert's Saturday NYT column on unemployment in America. You are right about Obama. I have never seen a more spineless and tepid president. Even Herbert Hoover was gangbusters in disaster relief efforts before becoming a useless deer-in-the-headlights kind of Republican president during the Great Depression. Obama is an empty suit. Like his predecessor, he is "all hat."

The problem in the U.S. comes down to two issues:
1. Red state people, who are more numerous than progressives, have totally absorbed all the Faux News, trickle-down, real Americans vs. non-real Americans crapola thrown at them for the last 30 years and keep voting against their (and our) best interests.
2. There is no contest in the battle between the Koch Bros., corporate media, Republicrats, and Conservadems versus Obama and other spineless/caving Democrats.

We ARE-SO-SCREWED

catwilldo said...

Karen -- i love your blog. keep it up.
added you to my bloglist

roadblues-kitty.blogspot.com

Draft Spitzer said...

To Anonymous at 8:18 am:
How can you say "we are so screwed" when the WI protests are starting to go nationwide?
As for your comment about the red staters, stop complainin' about 'em, and start converting them to your views. You can't claim it's impossible if you never try.
We just went to see Bernie Sanders speak last night. I think we owe it to him to start rallies for WI in our hometowns. I'm sure Karen and Marie have already started organizing. Let's not make them do all the work.
eva

Linda said...

I dunno, Karen, et.al., it seems that Big Business is one of the dragons to be "tamed" if there is any hope for the poor and middle class.

The millionaires and billionaires at the top have always been irrationally angry with and against the Democrats, and you can't "tame" someone who thinks you're the enemy.

Maybe there's a method to his seeming "madness." The intelligence and wisdom I voted for can't have evaporated in 2 short years. I'm still in his corner.

Draft Spitzer said...

Linda, I think many of us believe that by continuing to remain "in the corner" of a President who so consistently acts against the interests of the majority of the American people, you are essentially complicit in those actions.
You seem to be more emotionally attached to the image of Obama, than willing to rationally review the rightward direction in which he's pulled this country despite the overwhelming mandate provided to him in the 2008 election to return to the center. Make no mistake: Obama is not a centrist by any historical standard. He is conservative, and conservative is not what the American people voted for.
This is more indicative of a cult of personality than it is a reflection of Obama's tangible leadership, which has been to the right of Richard Nixon.
It's time to face reality. It's one thing for Kate to say that she'll vote for him because the options are worse. It's far more pernicious to suggest or insist that the all-knowing leader is acting secretly in our interests Despite ALL EVIDENCE to the contrary.
eva

Anne Lavoie said...

Eva, I'm with you 100% Since Obama is a corporate lackey, if I voted for him AGAIN I would be knowingly supporting the corporate cabal that he is helping to take over our country.

I would like to see him forced out of the race for re-election not just because I believe he has no chance of winning and will take the entire Democratic Party down with him, but because if he does win, he will simply continue to serve his corporate masters and leave us in the ditch.

No one dares to run against him in the Democratic Party or even as an Independent, because by our silence we are appearing to support the job he's doing and his re-election. Well I promise you, unlike Kate, I will not vote for him. And unlike Obama, I keep my promises.

I simply no longer trust him. I don't WANT him re-elected. And if an even worse President comes forth, then let all hell break loose. It's about time. The Corporate Devil you know is NOT better than the Corporate Devil you don't know.

To force him out, we need to go after his weakness, which is his ego and his narcissism, by expressing our unhappiness with his crappy backroom deals and broken promises. We saw how he lost his cool with us 'sanctimonious purists' because we did not appreciate his dumping of the Public Option (which was to keep the insurance companies honest he said), and gave Tax Cuts to the Rich (which he said the country can't afford).

He is not good for his word. We only have to treat him like we would George Bush. There is very little difference, practically speaking. He deserves some honest feedback, especially in a very PUBLIC way. It's not like we have to make anything up. His ego isn't going to like it though!

Is there anyone who can run and win that won't become just another corporate stooge like Obama has? Well, the Egyptians didn't worry about who would replace Mubarak, and neither should we worry! Let's just get to work on dumping him NOW, and I bet someone will step forward to run instead.

We have to make things happen, not wait anymore in silence and obeisance for our fairy tale rescuer Obama. Let's tell it like it is, the TRUTH, with MLK's 'fierce urgency of now'.

annenigma

Anonymous said...

Where do I send money to support Barry for President in 2012? At worst Vermont is a small state and even if we end up buying every cow in it we are still better off then if we have to buy G.E. Under Obama2.

jhand said...

Thank you for posting this, Karen. I really don't see how these dog and pony shows accomplish anything of value. All these finely-coiffed CEOs are too much afraid of their peers and boards of directors to openly advocate any worthwhile ideas on their own. They'll hide behind some kind of "joint statement" that is filled with platitudes, offends none of their friends, and allows them to go back to what they do best--screwing little people for dollars. American Express, Comcast, Dupont, Proctor and Gamble? Long have we waited for these companies and their leaders to share their intellectual largesse with us, haven't we? I realize that these execs are accomplished people in their fields, but public policy ain't their field. Except for Trumka, Hansen, and possibly Tyson, this is some kind of beauty contest. Have we ever seen groups like this openly share ideas and opinions? We seldom do because then we would discover their dirty little secret--they really don't know any more than the rest of us; they're just richer.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Kate. I'm not about to risk letting one of these women hating, child hating, immigrant hating, education hating,science hating Christianistas into the oval office. Are you ready to risk another Scalia on the court...for twenty years? Do you really think we would win a "revolution" if things got bad enough? Is that what you're counting on? Sorry, people. My grandchildren are too important.

Haley Simon

Draft Spitzer said...

Okay, Haley, putting aside the self- righteous issue of your vaunted grandchildren (about as convincing as my GOP neighbor claiming he's voting for Mitch Daniels because his 22-year-old Ukrainian escort is "too important" to him) and the gross redundancies of the word "hating" you used (player-hatin', too?) I'll take the bait as you set it up.
What, exactly, would be the difference between a Romney presidency and an Obama second term? Please list in order of significant degrees of difference. Please indicate degrees of difference in obeisance to corporate interests. Please indicate how Romney's fealty to the MIC would differ from what we now enjoy. Please indicate how Guantanamo would change under Romney. Please indicate how Romney's take on the Bush tax cuts differs from Obama's actions. Please tell me how different the Patriot Act would be under Romney than now.
Would Romney have slashed heating benefits for the poor any differently than Obama, or is it possible that Romney might be allowed greater leverage for benefits to the poor?

Anonymous said...

Draft Spitzer,

Wow. You take my breath away... self-righteous? vaunted grandchildren? (well maybe you have me there) Ukrainian escorts? player-hatin? (I haven't any idea what that means) gross redundancies? setting up bait? Admitedly, my note lacks any notable rhetorical skills - so what the heck made you so angry?

I allow you a clean sweep of whatever contest this is as I cannot say with assurance, exactly, in order, or within degrees what differences exist between Romney and Obama regarding those issues you have listed with one exception...Romney may have wanted to make the tax cuts permanent. And I hope you will forgive my rudeness if I point out a few redundancies in your use of the rather professorial "please indicate".

Having confessed my woeful inability to foretell what policies would come to pass in either a Romney or Obama administration, I am somewhat more confident that much of the legislation that has been passed during the past two years would have been vetoed by Romney. Oh yes...one other...no, two other things...neither Kagan or Sotomayer would be on the court.

Haley Simon

James F Traynor said...

As I said, we've got no place to go. Kate and Haley are really grasping at straws, as is Draft Spitzer. Things are going to go bad, faster than any of us think: civil unrest, later under Obama, sooner under the GOP. Better sooner in my estimation, since it will give the oligarchs less time to organize the police and military against demonstrations. My biggest fear, should it actually come to civil unrest, is the private paramilitary organizations reportedly under contract to some corporations. Intended or not, it could be an opening to a new Praetorian Guard. My biggest hope is organizations like the Coffee Party that are rationally looking for third way out of the mess.

Anne Lavoie said...

James makes a good point about private paramilitary organizations working for corporations. These organizations are now gaining huge amounts of money and power from our federal government through lucrative Homeland Security and Defense Department contracts. There are even private contractor spies galore, working for the government as well as industry. The entire Defense/Security Industry is going gangbusters!

Now that the Supreme Court through Citizens United has given corporations the same rights as biological citizens, I would expect some of them to exercise their Second Amendments rights. They can simply buy a militia or contract the services of one, i.e., Blackwater/XE and any others out there if they feel a need, such as 'defending' themselves from Union protests, etc.

We need a President who sees the dangers inherent in Corporate abuses of power and works to defend this country and its people against their abuses, not one that sucks up to them. I don't know if Obama is naive, complicit, or simply greedy for their money and support for his re-election and Presidential Library. Either way, it does not speak well for him as President.

We need a new Ralph Nader type. He was a courageous, intelligent man who was not the least bit naive about corporate abuses nor timid about taking them on. Unfortunately, he was ahead of his time, and most people did not see what he saw coming. He was right on the money. Too bad the two political parties fought and won to keep him out of the debates and most ballots, silencing the truth that we needed to hear.

annenigma

Draft Spitzer said...

Dear Haley,
Fair enough points you make. I would simply say that referencing your, yes, vaunted grandchildren is not actually an argument in favor of your decision. Had you written, "my grand-daughter is working as a molecular biologist and I would like for her to be able to work in a field that is unhindered by religious dogma", it might have made sense. But simply stating that you have a particular relationship to a 1) grandchild(ren), 2) Ukrainian escort, 3) golden retriever, is meaningless. It's the equivalent of a bumper sticker asserting that you believe in God, and you vote.
It may also be said that claiming your breath was taken away after throwing around the word "christianista" as you did is a bit hypocritical. There's a lot of anger in what you wrote.
And it should also be said that your argument, in the end, isn't based on a rational analysis of the present administration. It is largely about your contempt for the 'other side.'

Draft Spitzer said...

Sorry, a few more things, Haley:
I think it's important to know that a large part of the base is utterly unmoved by the very legislation you cite as reason to support Obama.
The HCR, or rather HIR, bill was essentially a very costly giveaway to industry. The financial reform bill is so full of loopholes that it defies description. Perhaps you are motivated by the repeal of DADT, which I thought was important, but as likely to have occurred under a Romney Presidency. I regret to inform you that I am one of those unsentimental jerks who are unmoved by anything regarding DOMA, because it is largely a confetti-like distraction from the massive crisis we are now in. (Not only that, but I am admittedly extremely skeptical that marriage is anything the state should be involved in in the first place, regardless of gender preference.)
We need a jobs program and bank reform, and the administration wants to be congratulated on such fluff as Lily Ledbetter and their recent JD decision on DOMA. I'm not buying it.
Further, we have NO reason to believe as you suggest, that Romney would have handled the Bush tax cuts differently. And I don't. wish to sound more rude than I have already been, but if you believe that Obama will end the Bush tax cuts in 2012, as promised, when he has already broken that promise before, then you are involved in what Joan Didion once described as 'magical thinking', which is far more understandable for the situation she described than for a grotesque political charlatan like Obama.
Marie Burns and Karen Garcia both describe the situation better than I ever could in theirresponses to Frank Rich today. Burns in particular expressed what so many of us are thinking about Obama.
And lastly, I think it is an ill-advised strategy to announce that O will have your support regardless, because it negates your ability to negotiate for better terms. I'd say the same to Kate, too.

Anonymous said...

Draft Spitzer,

Yep, I have contempt for the other side. Yep, I'm angry... maybe magical thinking (as close as I'll ever be compared to Joan Didion), plenty sentimental, and not nearly as rational as I would like to be. And I appreciate the transition from "please indicate their differences" to "we have no reason to believe". I'm not sure where that puts you (do we have reason to disbelieve?), but I am convinced the Republicans mean it: tax cuts now, tax cuts forever. Romney does not strike me as being opposed to that idea or have I missed something?
Point taken, the legislation is imperfect. But ill-advised as it may be , I will not withhold my vote when I think, just as you do, that the opponent is evil. It makes no sense to me.
That said, my opinions are of little importance. On the other hand, my grandchildren are. Call me crazy, I kinda thought the kids were the whole point. Maybe it's because I've not much skin in the game - too old.
But now I'm repeating myself. Best to sign off. But, with my apologies, I hope you will reconsider the microbiology equals value position. That, and the repeated "vaunted" descriptive, is crap.

Haley Simon

Draft Spitzer said...

Haley,
You misread my point. The point isn't that "microbio equals value". The point is that you made an appeal based entirely on emotion, rather than connecting it to any larger issue. Further, kids may be the "whole point" to you, but there are plenty of childless men and women who make essential contributions to their communities - are they pointless? What about infertile women? Are their lives without meaning? Wow, that's a pretty narrow view of women.
As for reasons to "disbelieve", there has been plenty of evidence over the past two years to not take Obama at his word. Again, Marie Burns made that point brilliantly today in the Times.
Again, the issue isn't whether the legislation is "imperfect." The issue is that the levislation actually does more harm than good.
I'm not, as you suggest, withholding my vote. I'll cast my protest vote for Spitzer, because he's the only Democrat and the only American who ever tried to stop the criminals who crashed the economy, Obama, on the other hand, is too busy sucking up to them to consider regulating them.
I strongly suggest you look more analytically at what's occurred since January 2009.
Emotions are nice, but basically you're giving Obama your gandmotherly permission to keep moving rightward, with great benefit to him, and zero to the rest of us. And your grandchildren will be paying for their entire lives for Obama's inability to rein in the banks, to stop the wars, and to set a course toward actual energy independence.
Respectfully,
eva

Karen Garcia said...

Dear Haley and Eva,

Everyone has made excellent points, but I think we need to close this discussion down now, okay? It is starting to get a wee bit personal. Do go to my latest post on psy-ops and tell me what you think. I really do appreciate your input.

New rule: No more mention of children and grandchildren, please. Unless, of course, they are the children and grandchildren of Rupert Merde-uck or David Koch-head.

turnipseed said...

I urge all of you to take a look at Russ Feingold's new group:

ProgressivesUnited.org

Russ is dedicating this effort to fighting Citizens United.

Anonymous said...

All talk about stimulating our economy and our repeated financial meltdowns (and about national debt, deficit reduction, and tax reform for that matter) misses the mark unless it addresses this shameful fact:

Right now In this country billionaire Warren Buffett pays 11% total (federal, state, local, corporate) taxes on $8 billion annual investment gains while a single minimum wage worker pays 41% total taxes on her $14,500 annual salary (leaving her $9600 for one year of full-time work). For details, see my site: http://fairsharetaxes.org

The IRS reports that the top 400 tax payers paid a federal income tax rate of less than 17% and it would have been half that if they had to report all their investment gains. Under December's tax deal, the average top 2% household got $74,000 while the average bottom 98% household got $5200 (and the national debt went up almost $1trillion dollars).

The top 1% in the US have gone from owning 22% to 40% of the nation's wealth in the last thirty years. This is largely due to the tax cuts for the wealthy investor class, started under Reagan. They were supposed to encourage investment and trickle down to strengthen the economy but have done the opposite. Since the Reagan tax cuts, average annual GDP growth has dropped by one-quarter. Why? Because we've had multiple recessions, triggered by investment bubbles, in turn caused by the favored tax treatment of investment income (via principles of supply-and-demand - see Econ 101).

The concentration of wealth leads to a concentration of power. Especially with the state of campaign finance in this country, the rich can buy the elections of those that will cut their taxes, which makes the rich even richer and more able to buy the next election ... and so on in a vicious cycle.

I propose that all federal, state, and local government services are funded with a reformed, simplified income tax and a new wealth tax (about 1% of net worths over $1million). Income and net worth are the two true measures of ability to pay and extent to which households have benefited from the economic infrastructure governments provide. Eliminate all other (sales, real estate, social security) taxes which shift the total tax burden in this country from the rich to the poor and midddle class. See http://fairsharetaxes.org/ProposedReform.aspx

The reform would reduce each middle class total tax bill by thousands, slash the deficit, eliminate the market-distorting tax breaks for investing that are ruining our economy and impoverishing all but the top few percent, and save us from becoming an almost feudal society, where only the very rich have a say in how things are run and who gets taxed.