You don’t need me to tell you, but it’s a whole lot tougher leading a garage band than being a superstar. What you might not have known is just how much harder.
If you want an example of growing inequality, try the rock ‘n’ roll industry. Between 1982 and 2003, the share of concert income taken home by the top 1 percent of performers more than doubled, rising from 26 percent to 56 percent. The top 5 percent collected almost 90 percent of all concert revenues.
The rock world is simply a more extreme version of the larger American experience. The top 1 percent of families doubled their share of national income between 1979 and 2011: Their take went from 10 percent to 20 percent of the whole. We live in a superstar economy.
That phrase and the examples come fromAlan Krueger, the outgoing chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a speech last week at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that drove home the danger of growing economic inequality. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, we are not taking care of our own as we should.
Now you might say that all rockers start in a garage or some other humble venue with the hope of becoming Springsteen, Beyoncé or Ke$ha. (I cite the last because of her name’s thematically convenient dollar sign.) The metaphor is that the United States may be unequal but we still offer exceptionalopportunity.
Well, yes, but not as exceptionally as we think. Krueger, who has a gift for popularizing economic concepts, has invented the Great Gatsby Curve,” which measures income mobility across generations. It turns out that the United States has far less “intergenerational earnings elasticity,” to use the technical term, than do many other countries, including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, or New Zealand. Economically speaking, “Born in the USA” doesn’t mean what it once did.
Those who defend our economic status quo have other alibis. We don’t need to make any structural changes in our economy, the argument goes. People who want to advance just need to understand that our new economic circumstances place a very high premium on education. Get a good education, and you will do okay.
There’s a lot to this, and broadening access to good schools and higher education is part of Krueger’s program. But we also need to realize that education is not the only factor in getting ahead. He explains this by invoking a study he conducted of identical twins.
On the one hand, he found that “on average, twins with higher education tend to earn more than their other half with less education.” So schooling really matters. But he also found that among identical twins with the same level of education, “earnings differed by 25 percent or more .?.?. in half our sample” and by “more than 50 percent in a quarter of identical twins with identical school levels.”
“These discrepancies for such similar workers,” he concludes, “suggest that luck is an important factor in the labor market, as well as in the music industry.”
I confess: I love any economist willing to say straight out that luck plays a large part in how well we do. The prosperous are especially disinclined to acknowledge that however hard they worked or ingenious they were, they were also lucky. The role of good fortune in determining success provides a powerful moral underpinning for more egalitarian policies.
As the song goes, it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll, and Krueger points out that the three decades or so after World War II — when the United States firmly established itself as the global economic leader — were a time of greater economic equality than we enjoy today.
He argues that we need to grow again “from the middle out,” not from the top down. This is the theme of a symposium in Democracy, a journal I’m involved with, and the “middle-out” idea needs to be our era’s answer to inequalities rationalized since the 1980s by supply-side economics.
“We have reached the point where inequality is hurting the economy,” Krueger insists. “Today, a reduction in inequality would be good for efficiency, economic growth and stability.”
Those two sentences should affect everything President Obama does in the economic sphere for the rest of his term. He should stand up for the garage bands. The superstars will take care of themselves.
Blowing a Whistle
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, New York Times
I’m glad I live in a country with people who are vigilant in defending civil liberties. But as I listen to the debate about the disclosure of two government programs designed to track suspected phone and e-mail contacts of terrorists, I do wonder if some of those who unequivocally defend this disclosure are behaving as if 9/11 never happened — that the only thing we have to fear is government intrusion in our lives, not the intrusion of those who gather in secret cells in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan and plot how to topple our tallest buildings or bring down U.S. airliners with bombs planted inside underwear, tennis shoes or computer printers.
Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11 — abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11. That is, I worry about something that’s already happened once — that was staggeringly costly — and that terrorists aspire to repeat.
I worry about that even more, not because I don’t care about civil liberties, but because what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: “Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.” That is what I fear most.
That is why I’ll reluctantly, very reluctantly, trade off the government using data mining to look for suspicious patterns in phone numbers called and e-mail addresses — and then have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress — to prevent a day where, out of fear, we give government a license to look at anyone, any e-mail, any phone call, anywhere, anytime.
So I don’t believe that Edward Snowden, the leaker of all this secret material, is some heroic whistle-blower. No, I believe Snowden is someone who needed a whistle-blower. He needed someone to challenge him with the argument that we don’t live in a world any longer where our government can protect its citizens from real, not imagined, threats without using big data — where we still have an edge — under constant judicial review. It’s not ideal. But if one more 9/11-scale attack gets through, the cost to civil liberties will be so much greater.
A hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for linking on his blog to an essay by David Simon, the creator of HBO’s “The Wire.” For me, it cuts right to the core of the issue.
“You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about,” wrote Simon. “And you would think that rather than a legal court order, which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame. Nope. … The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the F.B.I. and N.S.A. are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. … I know it’s big and scary that the government wants a database of all phone calls. And it’s scary that they’re paying attention to the Internet. And it’s scary that your cellphones have GPS installed. … The question is not should the resulting data exist. It does. … The question is more fundamental: Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy — and in a manner that is unsupervised. And to that, The Guardian and those who are wailing jeremiads about this pretend-discovery of U.S. big data collection are noticeably silent. We don’t know of any actual abuse.”
We do need to be constantly on guard for abuses. But the fact is, added Simon, that for at least the last two presidencies “this kind of data collection has been a baseline logic of an American anti-terrorism effort that is effectively asked to find the needles before they are planted into haystacks, to prevent even such modest, grass-rooted conspiracies as the Boston Marathon bombing before they occur.”
To be sure, secret programs, like the virtually unregulated drone attacks, can lead to real excesses that have to be checked. But here is what is also real, Simon concluded:
“Those planes really did hit those buildings. And that bomb did indeed blow up at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And we really are in a continuing, low-intensity, high-risk conflict with a diffuse, committed and ideologically motivated enemy. And, for a moment, just imagine how much bloviating would be wafting across our political spectrum if, in the wake of an incident of domestic terrorism, an American president and his administration had failed to take full advantage of the existing telephonic data to do what is possible to find those needles in the haystacks.”
And, I’d add, not just bloviating. Imagine how many real restrictions to our beautiful open society we would tolerate if there were another attack on the scale of 9/11. Pardon me if I blow that whistle.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 12, 2013, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Blowing A Whistle.
But how he sees them is still hard to explain. That makes it hard to figure what the Republican candidate for US Senate would do in Washington and why Massachusetts should send him there.
“I’m not in love with the idea of being a senator . . . I want to go down there and serve,” said Gomez during an interview yesterday at the Globe.
Humility has its appeal. A businessman, former Navy SEAL, and first-time candidate, Gomez is telling voters he’s not a career politician and won’t become one. He will only serve two terms, he promises. In contrast, Gomez portrays Representative Edward Markey, his Democratic opponent, as a creature of Washington. Given Markey’s nearly 40-year tenure in Congress, he isn’t wrong.
His problem: Massachusetts voters like creatures of Washington, especially if they are incumbent Democrats.
As recent political history shows, Bay Staters elect new representatives only when forced — in the case of death (Ted Kennedy), ascension to a White House cabinet position (John Kerry), or voluntary retirement (Barney Frank). Last November, Republican challenger Richard Tisei believed US Representative John Tierney was vulnerable because of a gambling ring scandal that involved Tierney’s wife and brother-in-law. Yet Tierney was reelected, because voters cared more about where he stood on issues.
It’s true Republican Scott Brown upset the natural order when he won a special election in 2010 to fill Kennedy’s seat. But Brown’s ability to sell himself as a “Scott Brown Republican” with a claim to “the people’s seat” represented one rare moment in time. There’s little evidence a similar moment is brewing. Once Brown got to Washington he was caught in an identity trap. Was he going to vote with his party or with his constituents?
During their 2012 showdown, Democrat Elizabeth Warren skillfully connected Brown to the national Republican agenda. A vote for Brown was a vote for Republican control of the Senate, she said. She criticized him for signing a no-taxes pledge, and put an ideological spotlight on his stance against President Obama’s jobs bill; against equal pay for women; and against mandated insurance coverage for birth control.
Markey is following the same template. He’s hammering Gomez on his opposition to Obamacare and an assault weapons ban, and tying him to the national GOP agenda on tax breaks for the rich and resistance to all Obama initiatives.
In response, Gomez insists that he’s nonpartisan and bipartisan, will talk to anyone and everyone in Washington, and won’t be part of any specific voting bloc. The result is a confusing blur of statements and positions that make it difficult to understand who Gomez is and where he stands. Some of the confusion lies in Gomez’s effort to dodge labels; but some of it also sounds like an unfamiliarity with issues.
While Gomez calls himself personally pro-life, he also said he doesn’t believe in litmus tests for judges; he could vote for a pro-choice or pro-life Supreme Court justice. He doesn’t believe in “preconditions” for deficit reduction plans, and would throw “everything in the bucket” for discussion — including elimination of the home mortgage interest deduction.
He believes the government has a role in regulating business — just don’t press him on what it is. He’s against the Wall Street bailout, but, surely, a Harvard Business School graduate should be able to explain his reservations beyond saying, “We can’t be bailing out banks that are too big to fail.” He’s environmentally “green,” but also supports the Keystone pipeline. Gomez welcomed to Massachusetts on Wednesday, even though the president was leading a Markey rally.
The confusion over the true Gomez identity began with the letter he wrote to Governor Deval Patrick, asking to be appointed interim senator and saying that he supported the Obama agenda. When Patrick took a pass, Gomez ran for Senate and won a three-way primary.
From the start, he counted on narrative to make his case — military man, businessman, family man, and Spanish-speaking man. It has curb appeal, but lacks a strong foundation.
It also overlooks the main reason why Massachusetts voters return Democrats to Washington. They know how they will vote.
By Beth Healy and Stephanie Ebbert | GLOBE STAFF JUNE 13, 2013
Republican Gabriel Gomez resigned his position at the private equity firm Advent International in February to run for the US Senate seat vacated by john Kerry.
A 13-year career in Boston’s private equity sector made Gabriel Gomez a millionaire and gave him the business credentials he often cites on the campaign trail. He says he knows what it takes to help companies and employees “prosper and thrive.”
But in a business where executives who buy and sell companies at a profit become the stars, the Republican candidate for US Senate participated in relatively few deals and never earned a promotion to partner. He would ultimately shift to a marketing role at his firm.
A Globe review of Gomez’s nine years at Advent International, an elite private equity firm, found that he was directly involved in just half a dozen companies and helped lead only one of those investments. The one deal he touts, Lululemon Athletica Inc., is one Advent credits to other executives.
Gomez has refused to discuss his investing career in any detail. He declined numerous requests by the Globe for interviews about his business experience, answering questions only briefly at one campaign stop before walking away from reporters. Last week, he shouted over his shoulder, “I’m happy to compare resumes with Congressman Markey,’’ shortly before stepping into his car.
Video: Gomez greets people on Boylston Street
Coverage of the Senate race
On his website, Gomez tells voters he helped pension funds invest for workers’ retirement and built regional businesses into household names. But he also had a role in applying common private equity strategies that are often controversial with voters — piling debt on companies and laying off workers or moving jobs overseas. Gomez’s involvement in a company called Synventive Molding Solutions was a case in point.
Just a year into his tenure at Advent in 2005, Gomez was part of a team that bought the Peabody company from another investment firm. Started by local entrepreneurs in the 1970s, Synventive makes machinery to pipe hot plastic into molds for car bumpers and electronics.
Synventive had 550 employees when Advent bought it. By 2009, the economy was in trouble, and two of Synventive’s largest customers, General Motors and Chrysler, had filed for bankruptcy. The company’s head count fell to 500, in part due to layoffs in Peabody. At the same time, Synventive was expanding rapidly in China as it shifted some manufacturing and engineering functions there and to Germany.
“It was a good company, except things changed a lot over the years,’’ said David Scatterday, a mechanical engineer who worked at Synventive for 20 years before being laid off, with a year’s severance. “You lost a lot of the good qualities you had with the original owners.” And, he recalled, “A lot of business went to China.”
That the jobs went overseas is acknowledged by federal officials. In March 2009, 18 laid-off Synventive workers, many over age 50, were offered government aid to retrain, specifically because their jobs were being moved overseas, according to the Department of Labor.
In a brief interview, Gomez denied shifting Synventive jobs to China. “There weren’t jobs moved overseas,” he said, explaining that the company simply expanded where business was growing. “The biggest producers in the automotive industry back then were over in Asia.’’
While Gomez served on its board, Synventive pursued large, multi-year tax breaks in China, including two years free of corporate and local income taxes and 50 percent tax breaks for five years through 2012, according to the company’s financial statements.
A spokesman for Advent said the Asian expansion was not aimed at replacing American workers with lower-cost labor, but rather at supplying Asian manufacturers close to their own facilities. Growing revenues in China helped Synventive weather the US recession, the spokesman said, and saved American jobs over the long run. The company had 770 employees globally when Advent sold it.
But the deal would fail for Advent in the way that matters most in the private equity world: It lost money for the firm and its investors. Struggling with $160 million in debt in 2010, Synventive was taken over by another investment firm the next year. Advent’s stake was slashed in the transaction, described as a “troubled debt restructuring” in securities filings, resulting in a loss for the firm.
Democrats have seized on Gomez’s reticence to talk about his private equity record, and he has deflected pressure from an advocacy group to disclose his investments. “If you put forward your principal qualification as a businessman, you need to have some explanation of, ‘What did you do in business?’?” the state Democratic Party chairman, John Walsh, said recently.
Speaking to voters, Gomez describes himself first as “a Navy guy.” When he talks about business, Gomez sticks to broad brush strokes on his professional life since leaving the military in 1996 and earning his Harvard MBA.
“I’ve been working with companies, helping them grow and be successful and seeing just what the impact of a lot of this legislation is coming out of D.C.,” Gomez said at a small medical-device company in Wellesley last month. “We should be creating jobs. We should be creating an environment in the economy where companies can be more competitive.”
Jeffrey Berry, a professor of political science at Tufts University, said it’s puzzling why Gomez isn’t more vigorously pitching his business experience to voters. “He repeats over and over again that he was a Navy SEAL, and he does mention that he was in the private sector. But he never connects the private sector experience with what he’s going to do to help improve the economy,” Berry said.
Gomez knows well how a bad economy can drag down companies — especially when coupled with a heavy debt burden. He saw the combination up close again at Keystone Automotive Operations Inc.
Gomez was named a director at Keystone near the end of Advent’s involvement in the company — five years after selling most of its stake to Boston’s Bain Capital for $440 million. Advent had by then tripled its money on the deal. Gomez, joining the board in 2008 with a number of Bain directors, was charged with overseeing Advent’s remaining 10 percent interest.
While Gomez was a director, Keystone consolidated facilities, merged call centers, and “implemented a cost reduction program throughout the company,’’ according to filings with securities regulators. Total employment at Keystone fell from 1,800 to 1,444 over three years.
In one round of cutbacks, 22 accounting workers in Pennsylvania were let go, according to a Labor Department report, because their work was shifted to a foreign country. In 2011, struggling with about $400 million in debt, the Exeter, Pa.-based company filed for bankruptcy. Bain lost a bundle, and Advent lost its remaining stake.
These episodes did not burnish Gomez’s resume. But neither can they be blamed entirely on him. Advent’s investment committee oversees all major decisions, and no single person shoulders responsibility for a deal.
Colleagues say they liked Gomez and were drawn to his life story — successful son of an immigrant family, ambitious Navy SEAL, and a hard worker. Even without an illustrious investment record, he earned $10.1 million from 2006 through 2011, according to tax filings released by the campaign. His personal investments exceed $11.3 million, according to his financial disclosure report.
In 2011, in his mid-40s and with political ambitions, Gomez was still not a partner at Advent. He held the lower rank of principal and by the end of his tenure was devoting most of his time to marketing and forging relationships with investment bankers, rather than doing deals, according to people associated with the firm.
“Gabriel was a highly valued colleague, who was widely respected throughout our firm. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors,’’ Advent said in a statement. Gomez resigned from the firm in February to run for Senate.
Of his time at Advent, Gomez said he is most proud of his involvement with the firm’s investment in Lululemon. But Advent gave him no credit for that deal on its website, citing several other executives instead.
Gomez’s main contribution appears to have been introducing former Reebok International Ltd. executive Bob Meers to Advent, which later named him interim chief executive at Lululemon. Advent made about seven times its money on the $93 million investment, taking the company public just two years later, in 2007. A Vancouver, British Columbia, business that had 20 stores and $70 million in revenue when Advent bought it today operates 215 stores generating $1.4 billion in revenue.
“It’s just a great success story,” Gomez said. “We turned a Canadian company into an American company.”
Indeed, Lululemon now employs 6,383 people, 53 percent of them in the United States, in retail stores, distribution and other functions, according to a company report in February. Canada has 40 percent of the workers; the rest are outside North America.
The manufacturing work also left Canada; just 3 percent now takes place in North America. As the company has boomed, most of the manufacturing has gone to China and Southeast Asia, according to company filings.
In a debate this week in Springfield with his opponent, US Representative Edward J. Markey, Gomez cited the need for new trade agreements to help bring manufacturing jobs to the United States. “We were a manufacturing hub before,’’ Gomez said of Western Massachusetts. “We need to return back to a manufacturing hub.”
But at a campaign event last week, when the Globe asked about his record of helping create jobs in China, rather than in the United States, Gomez said, “That’s not true.” Then he slammed his car door and an aide drove him away.
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: June 9, 2013, Washington Post
In politics, we often skip past the simple questions. This is why inquiries about the fundamentals can sometimes catch everyone short.
Michael Lind, the independent-minded scholar, posed one such question last week about libertarianism that I hope will shake up the political world. It’s important because many in the new generation of conservative politicians declare libertarianism as their core political philosophy.
It’s true that since nearly all Americans favor limits on government, most of us have found libertarians to be helpful allies at one point or another. Libertarians have the virtue, in principle at least, of a very clear creed: They believe in the smallest government possible, longing for what the late philosopher Robert Nozick, in his classic book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” called “the night-watchman state.” Anything government does beyond protecting people from violence or theft and enforcing contracts is seen as illegitimate.
If you start there, taking a stand on the issues of the day is easy. All efforts to cut back on government functions — public schools, Medicare, environmental regulation, food stamps — should be supported. Anything that increases government activity (Obamacare, for example) should be opposed.
In his bracing 1970s libertarian manifesto “For a New Liberty,” the economist Murray Rothbard promised a nation that would be characterized by “individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government and a free-market economy.”
Rothbard’s book concludes with boldness: “Liberty has never been fully tried in the modern world; libertarians now propose to fulfill the American dream and the world dream of liberty and prosperity for all mankind.”
This is where Lind’s question comes in. Note that Rothbard freely acknowledges that “liberty has never been fully tried,” at least by the libertarians’ exacting definition. In an essay in Salon, Lind asks:
“If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early 21st century is organized along libertarian lines?”
In other words, “Why are there no libertarian countries?”
The ideas of the center-left — based on welfare states conjoined with market economies — have been deployed all over the democratic world, most extensively in the social democratic Scandinavian countries. We also have had deadly experiments with communism, a.k.a Marxism-Leninism.
From this, Lind asks another question: “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?”
The answer lies in a kind of circular logic: Libertarians can keep holding up their dream of perfection because, as a practical matter, it will never be tried in full. Even many who say they are libertarians reject the idea when it gets too close to home.
The strongest political support for a broad anti-statist libertarianism now comes from the tea party. Yet tea party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up. Thus do the proposals to cut these programs being pushed by Republicans in Congress exempt the current generation of recipients. There’s no way Republicans are going to attack their own base.
But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.
And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.
In fact, as Lind points out, most countries that we typically see as “free” and prosperous have governments that consume around 40 percent of their gross domestic product. They are better off for it. “Libertarians,” he writes, “seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality .?.?. .”
This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can — or will — put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.
By Joe Romm on Jun 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm, Climate Progress
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated 45 years ago today. He was one of the few national politicians ever to challenge our monomaniacal pursuit of GDP in “one of the most beautiful of his speeches,” as Obama described it an August 2008 NYT profile of his economic thinking.
Who can doubt that our global economic system is now the biggest of Ponzi schemes?
It appears Kennedy gave (at least) two speeches on this subject. One in Detroit on May 5, 1967, where the key part begins, “Let us be clear at the outset that we will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods.”
He gave a second speech at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968, and we have the audio of some of his remarkable words:
Here are the key lines:
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.
It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.
It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
When I first wrote about this RFK speech 4 years ago, it seemed like Obama might be RFK’s heir. At that time, Obama appeared to be one of the few major politicians who constantly challenges our unsustainable economic worldview today (see “Obama gets the Ponzi scheme“).
Here’s what Obama had been saying, again and again, on a bigger stage to a bigger audience at the start of his Presidency:
“I want us all to think about new and creative ways to … encourage young people to create and build and invent “” to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.” (4/27)
“The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.” (4/22)
“We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand.” (4/14)
“We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for our lasting prosperity.” (3/19)
After praising RFK’s speech, Obama goes on to discuss sustainability with the NYT reporter:
The second point Obama wanted to make was about sustainability. The current concerns about the state of the planet, he said, required something of a paradigm shift for economics. If we don’t make serious changes soon, probably in the next 10 or 15 years, we may find that it’s too late.
The NYT profile, “Obamanomics,” ends:
Based on the collective wisdom of scientists, global warming really does seem to be different from any previous environmental crisis. For the first time on record, meanwhile, economic growth has not translated into better living standards for most Americans. These are two enormous challenges that are part of the legacy of the Reagan Age.
Unsustainable pursuit of short-term “wealth” at the expense of sustainable prosperity — growth for the sake of growth — is not merely the cause of the deepest recession since the Great Depression but, if it continues, it will be the downfall of modern civilization and our collective prosperity.
Since 2009, however, Obama has mostly been silent about the inherent unsustainability of our economic system. And so the question remains, will we find the kind of bold political leadership in time to avert the climate catastrophe, the kind we lost 45 years ago today?
The Lowell Sun
Updated: 06/02/2013 06:36:48 AM EDT
By Michael Goldman
Gabriel Gomez claims he can’t wait to debate U.S. Rep. Ed Markey.
Were I his advisor, I’d remind Gomez that at Little Big Horn, Gen. George Armstrong Custer similarly couldn’t wait to take on Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and the other 5,000 Sioux Indians.
Gomez also claims he wants to go to Washington to bring both a “moderate” point of view to the U.S. Senate, as well as to end the ugly name-calling and toxic atmosphere currently polluting the body politic.
Putting aside for the moment that the positions Gomez favors, including the continuation of the unlimited proliferation of assault weapons in our state and the rejection of even the most modest of the common sense gun reforms like limiting the number of bullets in an assault weapon ammunition clip, are about as extreme as one can get, Gomez is sure he can convince voters he’s the guy to change the partisan gridlock in the U.S. Capitol.
Sadly for Gomez, the guy opposite him on the stage actually has worked in that city and has a clue as to how to get things done. But, I get ahead of myself.
Were I Markey, the first question I’d pose to Gomez: Now that the most-respected nonpartisan political fact-checking operation in the country, FactCheck.org, has totally rejected the inane charge by Gomez and his campaign that Markey had run inaccurate, unfair or dirty campaign ads against him, would Gomez now like to take a moment to apologize to
voters for making the false claims in the first place.
I might also toss in a request that he consider taking back his ill considered comment that Markey was, in point of fact, “pond scum.”
Truth be told, calling anyone a name like “pond scum” at any time, for any reason, is clearly childish, an act more likely to occur during a recess amongst fourth-graders rather than during a campaign for U.S. Senate.
Moreover, having such an ugly term proffered by the same candidate who allegedly wants to go into the U.S. Senate at least in part to end ugly name-calling in Washington seems bizarre at best.
Then again, I guess it’s no more bizarre than that same candidate claiming to be a “moderate” on issues when his positions on gun safety and abortion rights are about as extreme as they can get.
Returning to his claim about the ads, Gomez charged that Markey had run one commercial that somehow linked Gomez to the Newtown, Conn., shooter, and then went on and produced yet a second spot, this time for the Web only, which somehow compared Gomez to Osama bin Laden. As the aforementioned independent FactCheck.org made clear, the Markey ads had done no such thing.
FactCheck reported that while Markey did release a TV ad noting Gomez “is against banning high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting,” that was all the ad said about the December tragedy. The Markey ad never implied any link between Gomez and the shooter. FactCheck.org went on to also demolish the claims Gomez made about the second spot.
While the Markey campaign did also produce a Web video that displays an image of Gomez while simultaneously playing part of a controversial film Gomez had championed which includes a photo of bin Laden, the Markey video merely made the point that Gomez endorsed the film, which Markey and many others believe was a crude attempt to “swift boat” President Barack Obama.
Nowhere does that video compare Gomez to bin Laden.
So, why would Gomez lie?
Perhaps, it’s because polls now show him losing by double digits. In the end, it doesn’t matter why. The question is whether he will be man enough to apologize for it.
Every debate for public office should in the end be about the fundamental differences between candidates on issues that matter to voters.
I’d love to see such a debate between Markey and Gomez. But were I Markey, I’d demand the apology first. It’s the decent thing for Gomez to do.
Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.
A False Claim of Blame in Mass. Senate Race
Posted on May 23, 2013 Factcheck.org
Republican Gabriel Gomez falsely claims his opponent in the Massachusetts Senate race blamed him for the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and compared him to Osama bin Laden:
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey did release a TV ad saying Gomez “is against banning high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting.” But that’s all it said about the December shooting.
The Markey campaign also produced a Web video that displays an image of Gomez while simultaneously playing part of a controversial film that includes a photo of bin Laden. The Markey video makes the point that Gomez championed a film that “swift boated” President Obama. It does not directly compare Gomez to bin Laden.
Gomez and Markey are competing for the Senate seat left open by former Sen. John Kerry when he became secretary of state. The special election is scheduled to be held on June 25.
Gomez’s TV ad, announced on May 21, responds to two ads released earlier this month by Markey’s camp. It says “dirty Ed Markey” is “smearing” him in “negative ads.”
Gomez campaign TV ad, “Something New”: Negative ads from dirty Ed Markey. Smearing Gabriel Gomez. Comparing him to bin Laden. Now, Markey actually blames Gomez for the Newtown shooting. Disgusting. Thirty-seven years in Congress. Dirty Ed Markey.
In claiming Markey “blames Gomez for the Newtown shooting,” the Gomez campaign is referring to a Markey TV ad on gun control called “Clear Differences.” The Markey ad said that Gomez “is against banning high-capacity magazines like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting.” And that is true.
The Markey ad features a clip of Gomez, during an April 21 appearance on WCVB’s “On The Record” TV show, saying, “I’m against an assault weapons ban” and “I don’t believe that you should have a limit on the high-capacity magazines.” (See the video here at around the 5:03 mark.)
It is also true that a rifle with a “high capacity 30 round magazine” was used “to murder 20 children and six adults inside the school,” according to the Connecticut State Police.
As for the bin Laden claim, a Markey Web video called “Meet Gabriel Gomez: Just Another Republican” doesn’t make a direct comparison between Gomez and bin Laden. In the video, images of bin Laden appear alongside one of Gomez for about seven seconds — about as long as the image of Gomez appears next to one of the president.
Gomez, a former Navy Seal, called the ad a “disgrace” and “a textbook despicable political attack to attempt to connect me with Osama bin Laden in the minds of voters.” Such visual associations are powerful. But, if viewers listen to the full Web video, it was an attempt to tie Gomez to the tea party and “Swift Boat” attacks used against Kerry in 2004. It featured a clip of an MSNBC anchor describing Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund as an “anonymously funded group with tea party and GOP ties.” And it also included a Christian Science Monitor headline asking, “Are Obama critics using ‘Swift Boat’ tactics?”
The images of bin Laden used in Markey’s Web video were pulled from a 22-minute film produced by the OPSEC group that accused Obama of leaking classified information, jeopardizing national security and politicizing bin Laden’s death. At the point in the Markey video where the images of bin Laden are featured, the film’s narrator says “killing bin Laden had been a goal for years, but the politicians turned that victory into an intelligence disaster.” The image of Gomez came from a 2012 MSNBC interview where Gomez appeared on the group’s behalf in order to defend the controversial film.
– D’Angelo Gore
POSTED BY DANGELO GORE ON THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2013 AT 10:21 AM FILED UNDER THE FACTCHECK WIRE. TAGGED WITH ED MARKEY, GABRIEL GOMEZ, GUNS, OSAMA BIN LADEN.
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Q: Has the Pentagon recently declared that sharing one’s faith is punishable by court-martial?
A: No. The Pentagon merely restated its long-held policy that military members can “share their faith (evangelize)” but “not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others … to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”
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In a blog post titled, “Scientists agree on climate change. So why doesn’t everyone else?,” The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer covers a new survey by John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli ofSkeptical Science. According to the survey, “Among abstracts [of published scientific papers] expressing a position on AGW [anthropogenic global warming], 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.” Cook and Nuccitelli, who read 11,944 climate-related abstracts, confirmed the findings of earlier studies such as a 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which came up with similar numbers that supported the expert consensus on man-made global warming.
In the blog post, Plumer confesses his confusion as to why the world needed another suchstudy. The survey’s authors explain that the general public remains misinformed on the issue of climate change, with about half of respondents believing that scientists are evenly divided on the question, as a recent Pew pollclearly demonstrates. Dan Kahan of Yale Law School, meanwhile, has argued at length that people tend to arrive at these types of debates with their own pre-existing cultural values. Plumer believes that this explains the generally misinformed public view.
The view that Americans hold, however, looks more rational when one considers the misinformation they regularly receive about the issue from conservative pundits and politicos and via the frequently lazy repetition of their arguments by members of the mainstream media.
This happens in a trivial way almost every day. As this Grist report notes, for instance, it happens when Sarah Palin says it’s snowing in Alaska, ergo “Global warming, my gluteus maximus,” without much pushback from the mainstream media. This is a pretty common—and ridiculous—refrain, which unfortunately is not limited to American news outlets and politicians. A recent London Review of Books article on the subject quoted a Channel 4 News anchor asking, “Should scientists admit that the drastic temperature rises they predicted have failed to materialise?” The article also notes that, “a few days later, Nature Geoscience published a paper showing summer melting on the Antarctic Peninsula at a level ‘unprecedented over the past thousand years.’”
I’ve written in the past on the myriad components of purposeful climate illiteracy in the media. Many U.S. meteorologists, for instance, who have no particular expertise in climatology, play the role of climate deniers to the general public in part because, according to meteorologist and writer Bob Henson, “There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions.” He explains, “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’”
Alas, researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” But even theAmerican Meteorological Society has stated that warming is occurring, and that human activities are very likely the cause. Unfortunately, according to The New York Times, researchers at Yale and George Mason found that 56 percent of Americans trusted weathercasters to tell them about global warming far more than they trusted other news media.
Moreover, as I discussed in an earlier column, the Union of Concerned Scientists, or UCS, decided to take a hard look in September 2012 at the coverage of climate science on Fox News and in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, both owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In the case of Fox, UCS found that 93 percent of segments dealing with climate science were “misleading” and designed to downgrade the danger of man-made global warming with foolish and discredited arguments. A study published in The International Journal of Press/Politics concluded, “Fox broadcasts were more likely to include statements that challenged the scientific agreement on climate change, undermined the reality of climate change, and questioned its human causes.” This may not surprise many on an instinctual level, but it is important to have this impression confirmed by careful scientific analysis. As for TheWall Street Journal, UCS found that 81 percent of the articles focusing on climate science “attempted to broadly undermine the major conclusions of climate science.”
Even PBS is in the misinformation business and has been criticized by its ombudsman, Michael Getler, who observed that the network “stumbled badly” when it broadcast a segment on “PBS NewsHour” that sought to create “an artificial or false equivalence” between global warming “skeptics” and “believers.”
While there is some excellent climate reporting in the mainstream media, many—if not most—members of the mainstream media have been AWOL on the issue. The statistics of the 2012 presidential campaign, for example, are telling. As Reed Richardson observed on The Nation’s website with regard to the presidential debates:
103: Number of times the national “debt” or federal budget “deficit” was directly mentioned by the moderator or candidates
0: Number of times the term “climate change” was spoken or even indirectly referenced
One has to go back all the way to 1984—the height of former President Ronald Reagan’s reheated Cold War—to find a debate season where global environmental threats received so little attention. What’s more, this refusal to bring up the man-made climate threat was occurring, as Richardson noted, as millions of Americans found themselves threatened by “rising sea levels and more wildfire outbreaks, starving our agricultural base with increasingly severe droughts, and killing our citizens in an epidemic of extreme heat waves.” When asked about the absence of the topic from the town-hall debate, CNN’s Candy Crowley explained it inthis way: “Climate change, I had that question. … All you climate change people. We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing.”
Yet another indication of how low a priority mainstream reporters consider the climate-change crisis was the decision by America’s most prominent newspaper, The New York Times, toabolish its environmental desk earlier this year. The decision came within a week of the publication of a study demonstrating that worldwide coverage of climate change was in the midst of a three-year decline.
So, contrary to the arguments above, it’s not necessary to only blame the public’s ignorance about the climate on individuals’ values or deep-seated beliefs. Blame it on what they see and hear in the news as well. Until we fix that, we won’t be able to fix the climate either.