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Wonkbook: Containment cap (mostly) working; Kagan's policy views; a bailout for schools?

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BP says its containment cap is capturing most of the oil spilling into the Gulf, Clinton-administration memos from Elena Kagan offer insight into her policy opinions and political skills, Sen. Lisa Murkowski wants to block the EPA from regulating carbon, House Dems are looking to pass an emergency stimulus for the education system before it's crippled by layoffs, and Arizona is spending $250,000 on a PR campaign to repair its battered image.

It's Monday. Welcome to Wonkbook.

Top Stories

BP claims the containment cap is diverting more than half of the leaking oil, reports Lyndsey Layton: "BP executives said that their efforts to capture the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have begun to work and that a containment cap placed over the damaged well Thursday night sucked up about 10,500 barrels of oil -- 441,000 gallons -- on Saturday, up from around 6,000 barrels, or 250,000 gallons, on Friday. That oil was diverted to a waiting ship…Government scientists earlier estimated the flow at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day." The Coast Guard's Thad Allen confirms.

Memos from Elena Kagan's time shed light on her policy preferences, report Robert Barnes and Amy Goldstein: "Her policy portfolio included issues from agriculture to Viagra, and at times, her legal and political views aligned. 'FYI. I think this is exactly the right position -- as a legal matter, a policy matter and as a political matter,' she wrote to her boss, Bruce Reed, regarding the Clinton administration's position on some affirmative action goals...Kagan called a proposed law that would make assisted suicide a federal crime 'a fairly terrible idea.'…A box of documents on Kagan's efforts on behalf of campaign finance reform contained a graphic showing how various proposals would have affected the 1996 Democratic and Republican candidates for the Senate."

The Wall Street Journal profiles groups affected by FinReg, including the retailer, the auto dealer, and the big bank: http://bit.ly/baioNv

The Senate will debate stripping the EPA's authority over climate change Thursday, reports Taylor Rushing: "The debate will center on a Thursday vote on a disapproval resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would block the EPA from enforcing emission rules under the Clean Air Act...Murkowski is bringing the resolution forward under the Congressional Review Act, which prevents any filibusters and only requires 51 votes for passage. Murkowski has said she has about 41 votes, including Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas."

Wondering what the Congressional Review Act does? The Congressional Research Service has you covered. Bottom line: Senate can't filibuster, but the president can veto, and that means Murkowski's resolution would need 2/3rds of both the House and the Senate to make it into law.

House Democrats want a vote on an education bailout as early as this week, reports Walter Alarkon: "Soon after Congress returns from the Memorial Day recess, liberal House Democrats and teacher unions will make one last push to pass a $23 billion fund to prevent teacher layoffs. Democrats are looking to package the fund with war and disaster spending in a supplemental appropriations bill the House will vote on as early as this week. The House approved the teacher fund in December as part of a jobs bill, but that legislation stalled in the Senate. With lawmakers wary of moving big spending measures, the upcoming bill may be the last vehicle that could carry the teacher money before the November elections."

GOOOAAAALLLL interlude: The New Republic kicks off 'Goal Post': "A World CUp blog for highbrow soccer dorks."

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Table of Contents: The Obama administration says the oil leak could last until fall (and other energy news); home purchases took a steeper plunge than expected (and other economic news); Kathleen Sebelius is warning insurers who want to participate in Medicare to lay off the rate increases (and other domestic policy news); and the White House is urging Congress to finish up on FinReg (and other FinReg news).

Energy

Thad Allen says the oil spill clean-up will last into the fall, reports Carrie Budoff Brown: "'We’re in the middle of a long-term campaign,' Allen, who’s coordinating the federal response, told CBS's 'Face the Nation.' 'This siege will go on for a long time.'"

The spill's ecological effects will likely last for decades, report Joel Achenbach and David Brown: "In most spills, the volatile compounds evaporate. The sun breaks down others. Some compounds are dissolved in water. Microbes consume the simpler, 'straight chain' hydrocarbons -- and the warmer it is, the more they eat. The gulf spill has climate in its favor. Scientists agree: Horrible as the spill may be, it's not going to turn the Gulf of Mexico into another Dead Sea. But neither is this ecological crisis going to be over anytime soon. The spill will have ripple effects far into the future, scientists warn."

The administration is relying on Energy Secretary Steven 'Incredible Hulk' Chu's scientific expertise in solving the crisis, report Karen Tumulty and Juliet Eilperin: "Obama has also called in some of the many scientists on the federal payroll, led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Chu at one point pushed the unusual idea of using gamma rays to peer into the blowout preventer to determine if its valves were closed, a technique he experimented with in graduate school while studying radioactive decay. The suggestion at first elicited snickering and 'Incredible Hulk' jokes. Then they tried it, and it worked. 'They weren't hot on his ideas,' a senior White House official said of BP's initial reaction to Chu's suggestions. 'Now they are.'"

The spill shows the limits of Obama's management style, write Glenn Thrush and Carol Lee: "The Gulf crisis has shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of Obama’s unique management style, which relies on a combination of his own intellect, a small circle of trusted advisers and a larger group of outside experts. But it’s also driven home a more generic lesson all presidents learn sooner or later: Administrations are defined, fairly or not, by their capacity to control stagnant backwater agencies, in Obama’s case the Minerals Management Service, which failed to detect problems with the Deepwater Horizon well."

BP CEO Tony Hayward is insistent he won't resign, reports David Stringer: "BP PLC chief executive Tony Hayward said Sunday he won't step down over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and predicted his company will recover from the disaster. Hayward told BBC television's 'Andrew Marr Show' that he would not quit, and he had the 'absolute intention of seeing this through to the end.' 'We are going to stop the leak. We're going to clean up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was in prior to this event,' Hayward said. 'That's an absolute commitment, we will be there long after the media has gone, making good on our promises.'"

Former DOJ environmental crimes prosecutor David Uhlmann explains how BP could be prosecuted: "No one thinks BP, Transocean or Halliburton intended to spill oil into the gulf. But given good evidence, the government could argue that the companies cut corners or deviated so much from standard industry practice that they knew a blowout could happen. Or, the government could argue that, even if the initial gusher involved only negligence (a misdemeanor under the Clean Water Act) each additional day represents a knowing violation. Both approaches are untested, because there have been so few oil spill cases - but the gulf disaster warrants trying aggressive strategies."

"Mr. Show" interlude: Pre-taped call-in show.

Economy

Home sales are down dramatically since the buyers' tax credit expired, report James Hagerty and Nick Timiraos: "The withdrawal of federal tax credits for home buyers led to a steeper-than-expected plunge in May home sales in much of the U.S., as the housing market struggles to wean itself from government support. Economists and real estate analysts expected home sales to slow after the tax credit, of as much as $8,000, expired at the end of April. But early data from real estate brokers indicate that the sales decline has been far more substantial than expected, with some markets showing declines of 25% to 30%."

The Euro-Zone crisis makes Fed interest rate hikes unlikely, reports Jon Hilsenrath: "Worries about the 16-nation euro zone's financial turmoil has pushed U.S. stocks lower and the dollar higher, made risky debt in the U.S. costlier compared with less-risky debt, inflated interest rates for the short-term loans that banks make to one another and helped slow down the issuance of commercial paper. As a result of that, along with meager job growth and low inflation, the odds that Mr. Bernanke will soon reverse the easy-money policies that have greased the wheels of the financial system since the crisis began are far smaller than they seemed just a few months ago."

IRS audits are threatening the effectiveness of Build America Bonds, report Meena Thiruvengadam, Kelly Nolan, and Romy Varghese: "Build America Bonds, or BABs, are taxable municipal bonds that give issuers a 35% subsidy on interest costs under the U.S. government's stimulus program. They were designed to encourage construction projects and create jobs. The program has been popular since its start in April 2009, accounting for roughly a third of municipal bonds that have been sold. But the IRS has said it was concerned that BABs may be being priced incorrectly, in some cases increasing the cost of subsidies from Washington."

Mortgage delinquencies on FHA-insured mortgages are down, reports Nick Timiraos: "The government agency that backs home loans may have some good news for taxpayers. Home mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration are falling into delinquency at a slower rate than they have in the past. If the trend is maintained, it could help the government agency avoid a taxpayer bailout. In April, nearly 8.5% of loans backed by the agency were 90 days or more past due. While that was still higher than a year earlier, April marked the third consecutive month in which delinquencies, which peaked at 9.4% in January, declined."

Consumer debt-cutting is threatening the economic recovery, writes Kelly Evans: "Despite a vigorous bounce-back in corporate earnings and a veritable factory boom, job growth is decidedly sluggish. Gross domestic product is growing at only half of the 7% to 8% pace that typically has been seen after past deep recessions. One reason: deleveraging. After years of bingeing on debt, U.S. households are paring back. Those not doing so by choice are often being forced, because lending standards remain tight. The question now, both for consumer spending and growth more broadly, is how much further the process has to go. The answer is probably a lot."

The era of Chinese cheap labor may be over soon, reports Keith Richburg: "China has been hit with a recent wave of labor unrest, including strikes and partial shutdowns of factories, underscoring what experts call one of the most dramatic effects of three decades of startling growth: A seemingly endless supply of cheap labor is drying up, and workers are no longer willing to endure sweatshop-like conditions. China's export-driven growth has long been linked to its abundance of workers -- mostly migrants from the impoverished countryside who jumped at the chance to escape a hardscrabble rural life to toil long hours in factories for meager wages."

Politicians of both parties are targeting public employees, and their unions, for cuts, report Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman: "Spurred by state budget crunches and an angry public mood, Republican and some Democratic leaders are focusing with increasing intensity on public workers and the unions that represent them, casting the workers as overpaid obstacles to good government and demanding cuts in their often-generous benefits.…But the immediate cause of the new spotlight on public-sector unions is the collapse in tax revenues that came with the 2008 Wall Street crash, something union leaders bitterly note is not their fault."

E.J. Dionne says Obama can't let the oil spill distract him from fixing the economy: "Thus Obama's test: He needs to establish that he is doing all he can to repair the damage in the gulf even as he maintains his focus on the economy and convinces reluctant conservative Democrats that the job of ending the downturn is not done. However unfair the first impressions of Obama's response to the oil spill may be, he can't afford to let them stand. He also can't afford to let oily waters engulf his priorities. It's worth remembering that while the daily countdown on the Iran hostage crisis helped create a famous television show, it was an unruly economy that ultimately upended Jimmy Carter's presidency."

Innovative instrument interlude: Playing musical Tesla coils.

Domestic Policy

HHS has warned health insurers against rate increases, reports Janet Adamy: "On Monday, insurers that sell Medicare Advantage plans must submit their 2011 bids to the government. In a letter to four insurance industry executives, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned the companies not to increase premiums and co-payments for seniors. 'Focus on price and quality rather than asking seniors who need health care the most to pay more for it,' Ms. Sebelius wrote in a letter sent Friday and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The letters went to WellPoint Inc., Cigna Corp., BlueCross BlueShield Association and Health Care Service Corp., according to a person familiar with the situation."

Debate is raging over the correct approach to the federal deficit, reports Deborah Solomon: 'On one side is the Obama administration-and Keynesian economists-who argue the U.S. needs to spend more, not less, to help gird the nascent economic recovery.…On the other side are lawmakers and economists who say the U.S. cannot afford to wait to cut spending. The deficit will grow by as much as $9 trillion over the next decade, according to the White House, in large part because of increased spending on benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as an explosion in interest costs on debt."

Arizona is launching a $250,000 charm offensive to combat immigration law criticism, reports Peter Slevin: "Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has appointed a committee and allocated $250,000 to re-brand the state's image, while 13 Arizona chamber of commerce executives appealed to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to keep the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix after he faced pressure to change locations. They said it would preserve jobs for 'innocent citizens, including our Hispanic community.'...Phoenix City Hall calculates that Arizona has lost nearly $100 million in convention commitments."

Anita Dunn is heading the administration's effort to sell the health care reform law, reports Sheryl Gay Stolberg: "A veritable army of outside groups - including an ambitious new initiative by Anita Dunn, Mr. Obama’s former communications director, and Andrew Grossman, a top Democratic strategist who spent 2009 coordinating advocacy groups in support of the overhaul - are orchestrating campaigns to echo the White House message. The Dunn-Grossman effort, a pair of related tax-exempt groups to be run by Mr. Grossman, hopes to raise $25 million from unions, foundations, corporations and Democratic donors to build a Washington-based operation with a staff of as many as 15 researchers, communications strategists and policy experts."

FCC chair Julius Genachowski is worried about US broadband capacity, reports Walter Mossberg: "MR. GENACHOWSKI: People here are probably familiar with the statistics showing the U.S. ranks 17th or 18th when it comes to key broadband metrics. The study I saw that makes me most concerned is one that looked at 40 industrial countries and ranked them on a small number of metrics relating to innovative capacity. It ranked the U.S. 40th out of 40 when it came to rate of change of innovative capacity."

Home ownership is overrated, writes Richard Florida: "The cities and regions with the lowest levels of homeownership-in the range of 55% to 60% like L.A., N.Y., San Francisco and Boulder-had healthier economies and higher incomes. They also had more highly skilled and professional work forces, more high-tech industry, and according to Gallup surveys, higher levels of happiness and well-being. A greater percentage of their residents are younger and more transient; many of them prefer to rent. Higher income levels drive up housing prices, putting homeownership beyond others' means. But with fewer residents locked into mortgage payments, there is a greater degree of flexibility and resilience in the face of economic shocks and downturns."

"Kids in the Hall" interlude: "I'm Crushing Your Head".

FinReg

The White House wants a FinReg conference report by this month's G20 summit, reports Sewell Chan: "As Congressional negotiators begin this week to merge two bills overhauling the financial system, the White House wants them to reach an agreement before President Obama leaves for a Group of 20 meeting this month in Toronto. The administration has tried to use the summit meeting to foster a sense of urgency among lawmakers. It thinks a deal would give Mr. Obama greater leverage in efforts to persuade other countries to support proposals like a global bank tax and higher capital standards for the largest financial institutions. The higher standards are part of the legislation but would require international coordination."

Build America Bonds are enriching Wall Street, reports Dan Eggen: "Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and other firms that dominate the U.S. underwriting market stand to earn millions, if not billions, of dollars under a planned expansion of the Build America Bonds program, which provides tax credits to local and state governments seeking to finance capital projects. Major banks lobbied heavily for the program's expansion under a jobs bill recently passed by the House and under consideration in the Senate. The bonds…provide two key benefits for Wall Street firms: new customers who would not usually buy municipal debt and, in many cases, higher commissions than those for traditional tax-exempt bond deals."

Private equity groups are thriving, reports Thomas Heath: "The value of private-equity acquisitions has climbed 75 percent in the first five months of 2010 compared with the corresponding period last year, according to the Private Equity Council, the industry's trade group. Firms invested $80 billion of equity and new debt in acquisitions, compared with $45.7 billion at this time last year. The industry is also doing 12 times as many IPOs for its portfolio companies as it did last year. The stock valuations in those companies are higher as well. So far this year, private-equity-backed companies raised nearly $9.3 billion through IPOs, compared with $309 million last year."

The G-20 is nearing agreement on capital requirements, report Michael Phillips and Alex Frangos: The world's leading economic powers edged toward agreement on new rules to ensure that major banks keep enough money in reserve to insulate them against future crises.…Top finance officials from the Group of 20 major industrial and developing economies agreed Saturday they would finish work on the tightened banking standards before their leaders meet for a summit in Seoul in November, ahead of their original year-end goal."

Giving speeches to businesses on the effects of regulation can be big business, writes Thomas Heath: "Friedman said his niche is offering information in an analytical, nonpartisan fashion. In an era of talking heads and politicized television shows, he seeks to stay objective and talks about how people can improve their investment returns.…Friedman writes his own speeches, and sometimes gives the same speech over and over, depending on how quickly Congress is moving. He speaks on a variety of subjects, from the estate tax to the stimulus bill's effect on municipal bonds."

David Leonhardt explains how both the oil spill and financial crisis are instances of risk mis-estimation: "For all the criticism BP executives may deserve, they are far from the only people to struggle with such low-probability, high-cost events. Nearly everyone does. 'These are precisely the kinds of events that are hard for us as humans to get our hands around and react to rationally,' Robert N. Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard, says.

We make two basic - and opposite - types of mistakes. When an event is difficult to imagine, we tend to underestimate its likelihood. This is the proverbial black swan. Most of the people running Deepwater Horizon probably never had a rig explode on them. So they assumed it would not happen, at least not to them. Similarly, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan liked to argue, not so long ago, that the national real estate market was not in a bubble because it had never been in one before. Wall Street traders took the same view and built mathematical models that did not allow for the possibility that house prices would decline."

Mashup interlude: Super Mash Bros' "Meet Me At Fantasy Island".

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with the help of Dylan Matthews. Photo credit: Eric Gay-AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 7, 2010; 6:26 AM ET
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Next: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on tail risk

Comments

Wonkbook: Containment cap (mostly) working; Kagan's policy views; a bailout for schools?


Come on Ezra don't you really mean a bailout for bloated school budgets. How about doing some analysis on comparing the losses in the private sector markets (for jobs and reduced salaries) and how the public sector has yet to take any substantial hit. Its about time they realize we've been in a recession for two years now and do their part.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and the gulf oil spill won't help matters any. If mankind doesn't clean up our act soon, we will truly be living on a smoking, glowing, oily mess.

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/30/opinion/la-oe-corwin30-2009nov30

P.S. BP is "willfully responsible" for about 97% of all serious safety violations. We shouldn't nationalize them, but we should kick them out of North America.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

gvmt workers are doing their part.

They're holding up the economy whilst big business hoardes their cash and refuses to employ anyone.

Do you seriously want to just fire people because of some sick idea that it's only fair to do that?

You sound like you're one of the Madmen In Authority...

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/madmen-in-authority/

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

and i'm also tired of these idiotic union bosses using firemen and policemen as political human shields. Its about time that gets called out for the hypocrisy that it is. Why we can't we legitimately separate the excesses and waste of public employees unions without damaging those public sectors that we need the most and those that aren't bloated and inefficient. How bout some Glass Steagal for public employees unions??

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Lomillalor,

Are you serious? Government employees doing their part? Did you read the other article from Politico. The one that stated that after working just 15 years people get pensions for life in one state?

How about this?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/nyregion/03mta.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Is this railroad conductor who made $239k DOING HIS PART?

Sorry, don't think so. If I cared to prove you further wrong I could waste most of my day and find stories like this throughout the country. Sorry, you're wrong. They're NOT doing their part to cut back during the financial crisis.

Now the NY Teachers union that agreed to wage freezes in lieu of no layoffs is a different story but they need to be the norm and too often we hear about stories like the MTA. Or worse yet we don't hear about it at all and it just goes un-noticed.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

to clarify my example given above this is taken from the Politico story:

“The public mood is clearly changing regarding these issues,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty, a likely 2012 presidential candidate, boasts of weathering a 44-day bus strike in 2004, the longest in the nation’s history, and recalled that during that “knockdown, drag-out brawl,” he shored up support by telling the public that “bus drivers under one version of their contract could get retirement benefits for the rest of their lives after working for just 15 years.”


The sad thing is that public unions want to keep in the shadows (especially nowadays) all the deals they get. The best thing that can be done is to bring them into the light and compare them side by side with the private sector.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

"Why we can't we ...?"

It all comes down to the fact special interests control gvmt.

The only way to turn the country around without a hard reset is to have public financing of all federal elections. But because the USSC is now controlled by GOP appointed corporate shills, that will never happen.

Even in the midst and pain of this gulf oil disaster we see a GOP more interested in BP's long-term health than anything else. On one side of his mouth Jindal complains we need more fed money for cleanup and on the other he begs for more oil drilling without nary a word of first cleaning up the MMS and our dismal drilling standards and oversights.

Don't worry about the unions, they are being decimated and will cease to exist in the coming decade or so. Worry more about the corporate takeover of America and its ravages on our environment and economy and diminishing standard of living.

Look north to our socialist neighbors and see how they are largely united and properly balancing all the complexities of a capitalist world gone amok.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Lom,

sadly I'm thinking you're wrong about unions. With this administration they are getting stronger and stronger and expecting this administration to last to 2016 I'm thinking that its only going to get worse before it gets better.

I'd love examples of their "decimation". Just wait until after the 2010 elections when EFCA gets back on the table. You know that was promised to unions for the 2008 election. The Dems can't go back on their word on that can they??

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

vision

I don't disagree about making tough choices and eliminating abuses, but I took your original comments to mean wholesale firings of gvmt workers or as refusals to stop gvmt workers from being downsized because of stressed budgets.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Lomillalor,

that's not what I'm saying (and I think you get that now). I'm talking about making an even playing field that is affordable for all. I don't think that's unreasonable. I understand how a CBA works and the issues relating to that but many years ago private businesses realized (with people living longer) that defined benefit plans needed to be replaced by 401k's and they've done so and private employees have survived. Its long past due that public employees do the same. I'm all for taxing the rich more but that's not going to be enough. In fact some of these public employee union's worst abusers could easily be considered "the rich".

For those that ask conservatives who aren't "rich" how can you side with corporate America, I ask the same thing of those on the left. How can they side with public employee union abuses?

Its all our money, no?

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

The GOP attacks against US detroit-related auto jobs was about destroying unions.

Unions have agreed on massive salary and benefit cuts in the last few years. Have CEOs and execs done their part? Of course not.

The numbers of union jobs are shrinking in the US.

Walmart is planning on hiring 500,000+ more people, none of them union. This, and the non-union auto jobs in the south, indicates a shift away from unions.

The employee free choice act is going down in flames.

Real wages in US trending down in the long-term. Another indication union power is diminished.

Budget cuts will require more tough choices and further diminish union power.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

"The study I saw that makes me most concerned is one that looked at 40 industrial countries and ranked them on a small number of metrics relating to innovative capacity. It ranked the U.S. 40th out of 40 when it came to rate of change of innovative capacity."

I just have to wonder what study that is. Seriously. The U.S. isn't perfect, and as a very large country, with an often lethargic government, and lots of competing interests when it comes to infrastructure. As such, I'm not surprised we don't have the best broadband in the world. However, we rank 40th out of 40 in "rate of change of innovative capacity"? How is that even possible?

@unions: I agree with Visionbrkr. The unions that are being decimated are unions in the private sector. And if they won't cease to exist (melodrama, much?). Public sector unions do seem to be doing pretty well.

"I'd love examples of their 'decimation'"

Decimation would be loss of every tenth member, and I'd say that, generally, membership in private sector unions has declined at least by 10% over the past (or would, if a given union doesn't essentially have mandatory membership, if you want to work in the industry). But I don't think they'll be disappearing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"For those that ask conservatives who aren't "rich" how can you side with corporate America, I ask the same thing of those on the left. How can they side with public employee union abuses?"

The reality is, most on the left want public financing of fed elections to eliminate special interest (business and unions) control of fed elections.

The GOP does not want that.

The GOP wants the status quo, and that's because big business RULES, not unions.

So until public financing is achieved (never will happen IM0), the right is forced to depend on business and the left is forced to depend on unions to achieve a political balance. That said, corporate influence is significantly more problematic because they own the media and control the purse strings, and as any objective measure will reveal, big business is growing richer and more powerful as union power diminishes. The fact the USSC is pro-corporation and anti-union is more proof. Citizens united is proof of growing corporate power in our lives even as union workers salaries and benefits are going down.

Unions are just as valuable as business in a free-market. And while abuses exist in unions, they pale in comparison to the abuses that big business have wreaked. The gulf oil spill and the great recession, and the great depression, are all caused by abuses of big business and their corrupt influences on gvmt, not unions.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

@Visonbrkr: "and i'm also tired of these idiotic union bosses using firemen and policemen as political human shields"

It's always happened, will always happen. When our rhinoceros of a governor, Don Sundquist, met a budget shortfall and wanted to institute a state income tax (we don't have one), he said that without a state income tax, we'd have to cut state police and education. Fair enough, on education: the state education budget is huge. Although I expect a lot of that goes to fund the UT sports franchise. But, still, if we were to cut the budget, some education would have to go.

The state police, however, was somewhere like 17 on state budget items. And the single biggest expense (and reason for the huge deficit Tennessee was running) was not even mentioned: Tennessee Universal Healthcare program, TennCare, which was demonstrably bloated with waste and fraud. Not a single mention of cutting that. Just: "Look, we've got to raise your taxes, or we're cutting the police and education". And, in other cases, they've shut all the state parks during a budget shortfall, while leaving midlevel government bureaucracies where nothing urgent is being done, but there is no real interaction with the public so the public wouldn't miss them, up and running for business.

Thus, in order that they don't have to cut their beer and cigarettes from the budget, they say you have to pay more, or they won't be able to pay the electric bill or the mortgage. While still finding the money for junk food and whiskey, somehow.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Prop 16 in CA is an example of big business corruption/influence in gvmt affairs.

PG&E sponsored this initiative, which would require a supermajority of voters before any new utilities are approved. This would create a monopoly by PG&E and would set back attempts at energy diversification.

Here in FL, it was illegal at one point to sell back solar power to the grid. The local utilities got these restrictions on the book. Not sure, but this may finally be changing to some degree here in FL, but I may be wrong about that.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Lom,

how RIGHT is it that national unions are spending millions in Arkansas to try to get Halter nominated over Lincoln? You see it does go both ways.


Kevin,

aah. TENNCARE. Further proof that single payer won't work. Sorry you all had to be the guinea pig for that one ;-)

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

@Lom: "The reality is, most on the left want public financing of fed elections to eliminate special interest (business and unions) control of fed elections . . . The GOP does not want that."

That doesn't eliminate special interests, just empowers a single special interest over all others: the public sector. Or leaves, essentially, the DC Beltway cocktail party circuit as the primary mover of Washington politics.

And public financing would increase influence of the media, which would become even more active (and be the outlets that end up getting all the cash that used to go to politicians). And if heavily regulated regarding political speech, the objection would be made that such regulations are abridgments of free speech and/or the press. Which would be true.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

TennCare is proof that single payer is not a panacea. It was (predictably) poorly executed. It was designed, ideally, to be less administrative and more about getting money to those who needed it.

Which figuratively meant leaving the big bowl of candy out on Halloween night and asking all the kids to be on the honor system.

As such, non-citizens were getting healthcare (including illegal immigrants, but also Mississipians and Kentuckians and Arkansians) and non-doctors were setting up non-offices and submitting non-claims and being compensated to the tune of tens-of-thousands of real tax payer dollars for procedures never performed. Even "legitimate" doctors with real claims were padding. And, of course, local and state government ended up using TennCare dollars to fund research and consultation where they'd hire friends, relatives, or "themselves" to get paid thousands of dollars to do nothing . . .

Although what struck me was when there was a budget crunch many years back, they wanted to close the parks (like, line item 578 on the state budget) and cut police and education funding, but not touch the #1 drain on our budget that, 5 years before, hadn't even existed--TennCare.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

@Lom: "Here in FL, it was illegal at one point to sell back solar power to the grid"

These sorts of stories which tend to prove the Ayn Randian theory that no monopolies exist outside of government collusion.

Remember when it was illegal to own your own phone? Or do any kind of work on the phone system in your house? Here, as in many places, it was illegal for there to be any competition in the cable television space (some sort of "right of ways" and license fee nonsense.

Companies should be able to vociferously and publicly object to regulations they think will negatively impact them, cost jobs, or put them out of business, or have unintended consequences. However, companies should not be allowed to collude with the government to the detriment of other companies, or to avoid fair competition. Which, of course, the same companies who want to protect themselves from government overreach will want to do.

A perpetually sticky wicket.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 7, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

What more is needed to be a suspect?
By Dwight Baker
June 7, 2010
Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before the well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster.

Mr. Hayward, whose pay package is £4 million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than £1.2 million.

There is no suggestion that he acted improperly or had prior knowledge that the company was to face the biggest setback in its history.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7804922/BP-chief-Tony-Hayward-sold-shares-weeks-before-oil-spill.html

My Take:

Where is Elliot Ness oh hell what about Sherlock Holmes or how’s about yours or mine County Sheriff? How much more is needed to begin an investigation to poke about into the night the blow out disaster reeked hell upon the face of our planet? OH NO!

Who in our Corporate led Political world would dare do a thing like that? Might find a smoking gun! Oh crap what if a BP big shot got indicted! Or better put what if we declared war on BP? Or even better what if our military began picking up BP Brits as suspect into the roll they played that dreadful night as prisoners of war? We still have Guantanamo Bay Luxury Suites.

Posted by: dbaker00711281944 | June 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I would like to pose for consideration. What If the entire BLOW OUT was planned far in advance? WHY--- so the big fish could eat the little ones. The GULF OIL LEASES are a prize like bigger than ever since the planet began. Exxon/Mobil Rockefellers and BP Rothschilds are the biggest fish in the pond, but here in the USA the largest independent is Anadarko Production and they have a fair share of the leases some production and others to drill in the Gulf.

So just think on these things, God only knows we have yet to see worse things.

Posted by: dbaker00711281944 | June 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Outrage, Compassion, Grief and Despair must be replaced with Good Words of Dissent and Disgust. Followed by our Good Works what ever those might be.
By Dwight Baker
June 6, 2010
Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

I am 65 years an inventor oil and gas Mechanical Engineer what I propose next is the Cure to stop the blow out and plug the well. BP must hear We the People Cry out daily TAME NATURE with overshot. It is the most viable cheapest and best-proven oil and gas way to stop the flow of oil and gas now.

How could any one be expected to raise their voice in dissent without knowing the facts? I have the complete plan and will send it along to you for FREE---- e-mail me Dbaker007@stx.rr.com the plan will be sent right back to you.

Folks we live in perilous days. British Petroleum is revered in Britain our banking system is controlled by them. Some of the BP stock holders have given their blessing on Hayward performance over here, Hayward is a money man and he knows how to move things around to take BP out of the column to pay all.

Poor President Obama is far behind times to make international law work for us. To keep British Petroleum in line and make them pay for the next 100 years for what they have caused by negligence trying to save money, Obama needs to ask congress to declare war against BP.

Doing that would keep this mess out of the crooked ass court systems that we all know about, and put matters in the hands of a Military Tribunal. If that is not done soon and all their money out there that is needed to pay for their mistakes whatever they are and forever how long should be moved into our treasury and held until the war declared against them is over.

I have the complete plan and will send it along to you for FREE-
e-mail me Dbaker007@stx.rr.com the plan will be sent right back to you.

Posted by: dbaker00711281944 | June 7, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

vision

In Garland County Arkansas, the local Dem election official has closed 40 out of 42 voting polls for this coming runoff. The reason he did that is because Garland County is a BIG halter county. If he gets away with this, Halter will assuredly lose.

There is nothing wrong with unions spending money to get people elected.

Just like there is nothing wrong with businesses doing the same.

However, we need to get money out of politics and the only way is to enact public financing of elections.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

"That doesn't eliminate special interests, just empowers a single special interest over all others: the public sector."

Yeah, it's called "of the people, by the people, for the people".

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"These sorts of stories which tend to prove the Ayn Randian theory that no monopolies exist outside of government collusion."

Uh, no it doesn't. Why don't you quote Donald Duck, because he would probably be more correct than extremists like AR.

Monopolies are much more likely to exist with highly corrupted gvmt.

The GOP favors that, because then they can cater to the wishes of bis business. That's the problem we have now.

I have a news flash for you: our gvmt is corrupt and impotent because of undue influence by big business, not because gvmt is innately impotent and corrupt, which you seem to believe.

You are basically a defeatist. You don't believe we can improve gvmt and actually make it somewhat functional, though other countries have proven that wrong.

I think people who hate big business (like some leftists) or hate gvmt (like you and vision seem to do) are only rowing with one oar in the water. They don't understand the nature of how a balanced partnership between gvmt and business, investors and laborers, makes for the ideal conditions for mutual success. We have been out of balance since Reagan screwed things up.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Lom,

Yes i read FDL too.

But that's not the FULL story. I would have hoped you would have read FURTHER (if that's where you got it from.

It wasn't the actual election it was "early voting" (whatever that means). So to make it seem like Lincoln conspired to block voting in what is assumed to be Halter strongholds is inaccurate at the least and an outright lie at most.

I also like how in a recent post there they have word on a "mysterious" donor but no word on how unions outside of Arkansas are spending GOBS of money on Halter.

I guess that's fine though.

And no I don't "hate government' as you say. I hate government WASTE. There's a BIG difference.

Lomillalor said:

"I have a news flash for you: our gvmt is corrupt and impotent because of undue influence by big business, not because gvmt is innately impotent and corrupt, which you seem to believe."


Really? How's that high risk pool working out? Exactly how is the fact that those are being screwed up "big businesses' fault. I can't wait to hear this one.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

vision, you're all over the place sometimes. And your come backs are often off-target, and just make me want to go somewhere else rather than try to patiently explain why you're off-target. I'll go somewhere else now. Have fun blathering away with your Ayn Rand worshipping comrade.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Lomillalor,

all over the place? You tried to state that government is corrupt because of big business and I pointed out (like I've said all along) that I don't expect the high risk pools in healthcare to be set up properly and in time and you call me a Libertarian? As if in some aspects of that its supposed to be a bad thing?

Why is being fiscally responsible bad? Why do you assume that government can do big things and do them well? Name me one big thing that government does that's BIG and does it well and I'll bet you i can put at least 3-4 points together that they fail at.

At some point a bureaucracy becomes just a bureaucratic mess.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

vision

There you go again.

Your comment about fiscal responsibility being good come out of nowhere and presumes to imply I said otherwise. Now, I've gotten things wrong with you before, but I always admit I am got it wrong. You never do. You just keep angling for something to disagree about.

Neither gvmt nor business is perfect. Get over it. There are failings in each. There are successes in each.

You are a contrarian. Someone says something, and you the disagree to disagree, and think because you can nitpick something that somehow invalidates everything else.

gvmt today is of the market, by the market and for the market. It's not for the people.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Lomillalor,

Agreed that neither government nor business are good all of the time.

My only issue with you is that you NEVER seem to mention when business is good (only when they're EVIL like BP) And you NEVER mention the short-comings of government. Too long to list!!

-------------------------------------------


gvmt today is of the market, by the market and for the market. It's not for the people.

Posted by: Lomillialor | June 7, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse


wait so if that's how you TRULY feel about government then why is it GOOD? Oh forget it.

Posted by: visionbrkr | June 7, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

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