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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: ALEC corporate support
September 14, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Vote: Are you better off than 4 years ago?

This is the question that Ronald Reagan used to devastating effect against Jimmy Carter in 1980, when inflation was nearly 14 percent and interest rates were around 21 percent. This time, the question is not so simple, as the New York Times pointed out. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post considers it a dumb campaign question.

Four years ago, the world financial system was headed into meltdown. Actions by the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the Federal Reserve, prevented a new great depression. The Obama stimulus also worked to keep the collapse from being much worse. The remains of the safety net and the FDIC, put in place beginning with the New Deal, prevented financial ruin for many millions.

On the other hand, saving the banks didn’t bring financial reform. The banksters got away with it. The 30-year slide of the middle class has continued even as the plutocracy has gained even more political power. The Military-Industrial Complex and national security state are even more entrenched. For all this, the Republican Party has nominated a feckless character who has supported any position to “close the deal” and this week showed himself profoundly unprepared for the presidency (his “Lehman moment”).

So I’ll try to keep the poll simple. And you have the comments section to vent your spleen and say how I don’t know Econ 101. Constructive comments would be welcome, too.

Are you personally better off now than 4 years ago

Read on for the best links of the week and the haiku:

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Comments | More in ALEC corporate support, Bailout, Banking, Campaign 2012, Politics and the economy

June 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The Corporate States of America || Jon Talton

The Supreme Court left no doubt today that America will live under a Citizens United government. That decision allowed for unlimited political contributions by corporations and unions (the latter dying and being outspent by 15 to 1 or more). Today’s decision struck down a 1912 Montana law, written in the Progressive era to overturn the corrupting influence of the mining interests on that state. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said independent political expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

This is a comical assertion coming so soon after the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, which at its heart was caused by deregulation, captured regulators and politicians bought and paid for by large corporate interests. Profits were privatized, losses socialized, none of the kingpins went to jail or even faced serious prosecution. Like Citizens United, the Montana decision goes against a century of precedents. And, to put a fine point on it, five activist justices — it’s difficult to call them conservative — are deciding the political, economic and social future for 311 million Americans.

We are embarking on an entirely new arc for this country. To call it “un-American” is only the beginning. It is without precedent in our history. Some may pine for the 1880s, but the nation is more populous, complex, facing greater challenges, lacking a frontier to exploit — and it will have a large, powerful federal government no matter who is in power. The stakes and consequences of corruption which invariably flows from big money, pace Justice Kennedy, are greater by orders of magnitude.

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Comments | More in ALEC corporate support, Citizens United, Occupy, Occupy Seattle, Occupy Wall Street, Politics and the economy

April 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM

ALEC ropes in surprising support for extremist agenda

Am I the only one who was surprised to read in this morning’s newspaper that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the shining star of progressive Seattle’s non-profits, had been giving money to the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? According to SourceWatch, “ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line.”

ALEC is known for writing right-wing legislation that has been voted into law around the country, including the infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws, various voter suppression bills, anti-environmental measures and efforts to privatize public education. Not surprisingly, the Koch brothers are huge supporters. This is hardly the company one would expect the Gates Foundation to keep.

Gates and some other corporate sponsors have backed away from ALEC (as are Kraft, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Coca-Cola. Amazon.com was apparently a member as late as 2011. ALEC’s “private enterprise board” includes Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil. The site ALEC Watch also lists Microsoft and Boeing as members.

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