Monday, December 15, 2014

Elizabeth Warren for President : Really!

Elizabeth Warren was told to stay quiet, but she didn’t – and it’s paying off

 December 14 at 8:00 AM   -- Washington Post

In her book released this year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren recounted a dinner she had with President Obama’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, in April 2009, when Warren was the outspoken chairman of a congressionally appointed panel probing the government’s response to the financial crisis.
Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. ... He teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule. They don’t criticize other insiders.
I had been warned.
Warren ignored the warning.
And if the past few weeks are any indication, she can operate as an insider without giving her up outsider credentials. She’s remained outspoken, but has become even more influential. She hasn't stopped throwing bombs at the rich and powerful — and causing trouble for the White House — but she's won a spot in Senate leadership, changed the shape of congressional debates over financial regulation and continued to draw widespread attention as a potential presidential candidate.
It all helps to explain why – for the 300 former Obama campaign officials who last week urged her to run in 2016 – she is the one they’ve been waiting for.
“Rising income inequality is the challenge of our times, and we want someone who will stand up for working families and take on the Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy,” they wrote.
Over the past week, Warren galvanized liberals across Capitol Hill against a government spending bill that weakened a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that tightened oversight of Wall Street.
The Senate may have passed the legislation late Saturday, but it was not before Warren and other liberals asserted their power in a confrontation with the White House, joining with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to oppose the legislation.
Warren is also in an unusually public battle with the White House and Treasury Department over Antonio Weiss, an investment banker who has been tapped for a key Treasury position. White House officials say Weiss is deeply sympathetic to Democratic views and is the right man for the job. But Warren has won over several colleagues in trying to block the nomination, saying the administration is too cozy with Wall Street.
It’s a topic she reprised in a speech Friday evening after losing the battle over the spending bill, in which see singled out mega-bank Citigroup as an example of a bank with too much power.
Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind of cronyism we have seen in the executive branch,” she said. “Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th-hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but that everybody comes to regret. Enough is enough.”
Critics of Warren, even if they're sympathetic to her view, would say that by taking absolutist positions, she won't achieve much more than fiery rhetoric.
On the government spending bill, Obama could have pushed for more, but ultimately gotten less – especially in a new Congress controlled by Republicans next year. And opposing hiring finance industry officials for Treasury jobs, one might argue, is like fighting for a Justice Department staffed with people who never worked for a private law firm.
The history of Obama's presidency, in many ways, is a story of compromises that disappointed liberals but still achieved substantial policy gains for Democrats, including the Affordable Care Act.
Looking forward, the power of Warren and likeminded senators seems only to be growing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made her a member of leadership. In the next Senate,  the top Democrat on the Banking Committee will be liberal leader Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee will be Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-avowed socialist.
It's hard to imagine any of them leading the way on any legislation the Senate will actually consider, and it's equally difficult to know how Warren would respond if she was actually in a position where she had to negotiate legislation. To the degree he seeks congressional accords in his final two years, Obama will be forging them with Republican leadership in the House and Senate, and bringing along as many Democrats as he can.
But should he move far in hopes of a compromise with the GOP — on trade, the budget or any other issue — Obama will likely find Warren leading a liberal flank in opposition. It's hard to know if she would succeed, but the past few weeks show that she has the influence to make a difference.
Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Taming Corporate Power - TheGuardian

The Guardian view on taming corporate power

Transnationals are mighty, but they’re not beyond government reach. If politicians are pressed by the grass roots, democracy could still battle back
As Prem Sikka of Essex University observes: 'Corporations have no loyalty to any place, people or co
 As Prem Sikka of Essex University observes: 'Corporations have no loyalty to any place, people or community.' Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

In this early 21st century, we are bedevilled by size. Economies of scale have allowed firms to grow until they straddle the globe like colossi, beneficiaries of the last century’s turbocharged capitalism. But it is the sheer expanse of those companies, how they consequently behave and how that affects the countries and continents in which they trade that cause disquiet. Of the top 175 economic entities in the world in 2011, whole nations included, 111 were giant corporates.
There has been diagnosis aplenty, but in the Taming corporate power series this week, the Guardian has sought to pinpoint potential remedies. The debate is often a despairing one. Giant firms, reluctant to have their territorial ambitions or profit potential curbed, will deploy lobbying and sharp PR to persuade lawmakers to think otherwise. They make menacing virtue of their multinational structures, threatening uncooperative states with taking their business elsewhere. The result is a source of power that has grown beyond democracy’s reach.
At one level, transnational businesses are simply structures for organising economic activities. By dint of their border-straddling scale, they do much to foster world trade. But as Prem Sikka of Essex University observes: “Corporations have no loyalty to any place, people or community.” Rage about tax avoidance, predatory competition and environmental despoliation occasionally triggers calls for practical action to temper or even punish corporate irresponsibility. But always the disincentive is the scale of the task. In the real-life face-off between the democratic David and the corporate Goliath, David can look puny indeed.
And yet – then as now – Goliath is not invincible. As our writers have searched for answers, some things have become clear. First, governments already possess many powers that they shrink from using. They could smash monopolies and force firms vying for public contracts to pay a living wage. They could, if they wanted, reform political funding and get a regulatory grip on the lobbying that leads to warped laws. Just as governments have imposed freedom of information on themselves, they could – in principle – shine a light behind the corporate veil. They could also, between them, agree that taxes will be calculated on where sales are made, not where profits are reported.
Local authorities could reassert their territorial power too. This week we highlighted how Enfield council has been campaigning to force utilities to give work to local firms and for banks to lend more to local business, with the threat that those that do not comply will be named and shamed. Prof Sikka called for a rethink of company law, balancing the terrific legal privilege of limited liability with a removal of the duty to advance shareholder interest at the expense of all other stakeholders. That mirrors the line of thinking pursued by our economics editor Larry Elliott, on what he called “the nuclear option”. Namely, the withdrawal of this limit on liability – that’s the L in PLC – from those irresponsible corporates that show negligence to their workers, their customers or their supply chains. All of these would, of course, require great will from legislators. For all the scandals, they seem unlikely to find such resolve on their own.
If there is to be a genuine effort to reshape the relationship between communities, nation states and multinationals, the pressure will have to start in communities themselves, instilling in our representatives the fear that there will be a price to pay for being in hock to corporate interests. The pressure is, perhaps, most likely to start at the grass roots – outside party structures, which are so often compromised by corporate funding. There is some early sign of that in the activities of the better trade unions, and in popular campaigning groups like UK Uncut. There is progress, too, in those parts of Europe where anti-austerity campaigns are increasingly pushing corporates centre-stage.
The status quo endures because there is, at present, too little incentive to assault a system that allows companies unquestioned freedom and unfettered prospects for enrichment. And then we come back to the intimidating scale and the accompanying complexity. These forces for inaction may yet prevail, but let it no longer be said that alternatives do not exist.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wall Street Wants Previously Disasterous Perks in GOP Shutdown Blackmail

Wall Street Demands Derivatives Deregulation In Government Shutdown Bill

Posted: Updated: 
WASHINGTON -- Wall Street lobbyists are trying to secure taxpayer backing for many derivatives trades as part of budget talks to avert a government shutdown.
According to multiple Democratic sources, banks are pushing hard to include the controversial provision in funding legislation that would keep the government operating after Dec. 11. Top negotiators in the House are taking the derivatives provision seriously, and may include it in the final bill, the sources said.
The bank perks are not a traditional budget item. They would allow financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by the risky contracts. Big Wall Street banks had typically traded derivatives from these FDIC-backed units, but the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law required them to move many of the transactions to other subsidiaries that are not insured by taxpayers.
Taxpayer insurance helps banks secure higher credit ratings for their derivatives, since taxpayers assume some of the risk, which in turn makes the banks more profitable.
Last year, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) introduced the same provision under debate in the current budget talks. The legislative text was written by a Citigroup lobbyist, according to The New York Times. The bill passed the House by a vote of 292 to 122 in October 2013, 122 Democrats opposed, and 70 in favor. All but three House Republicans supported the bill.
Himes was passed over for leadership positions after the 2014 midterm elections, which he said he interpreted as unrest within the Democratic Party over his strong ties to financial elites.
"My guess is, it was a factor, which is disappointing because I think the criticism is way off base," said Himes, who previously worked at Goldman Sachs.
It wasn't clear whether the derivatives perk will survive negotiations in the House, or if the Senate will include it in its version of the bill. With Democrats voting nearly 2-to-1 against the bill in the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) never brought the bill up for a vote in the Senate. President Barack Obama opposed the bill ahead of the House vote, as did former FDIC Chair Shiela Bair, former House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), currently the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.