Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Amy Gutmann and the Academic Imprimatur For Compromise Fetishism

Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson promoted their upcoming book in a NYT op-ed Wednesday that told us that Congress just needs to learn to compromise. I mean, really.

Reading this stuff about how both sides need to give ground, you might think Gutmann and Thompson have been off the grid the last several years. They seem unaware that one, and only one, of the major American political parties was willing to hold the country hostage and extort concessions from the other party in exchange for votes to raise the debt ceiling. And the supercommittee, to them, was a "breakdown in an attempt at compromise in Washington" -- which makes sense only if you think that cutting federal spending amidst a rotten economy (policy even many center-right economists don't recommend) was an example of fair compromise in the first place.

Gutmann and Thompson call for grand compromise from both sides, but they have Thomas Friedman syndrome: they're unable to admit that President Obama -- much to our disappointment -- has offered the very kind of compromises they beg for. It's as if their way of thinking is unable to accept the results of the grand empirical experiment that is the Obama presidency: a guy who actually, truly believes in compromise giving it a go.

There was a time when compromise was relevant, because you could actually battle out policy differences. That's often not how it works anymore, at least for now. We're in an era of post-truth politics, where the outcome is mostly dependent on power politics, not the nuances of the policy.

It's annoying enough that Gutmann and Thompson buy into the notion that it's been Both Sides Fault in the last few years. But the broader problem is that they serve to give an academic imprimatur to the compromise fetishists, the line of DC pundits who think compromise is in itself a victory and necessarily good.

Much of the time "compromise" is used to give cover to the backroom deal that avoids a tough vote. In these cases, the deal is done by members of congress who aren't in it for compromise itself, but use "compromise" to put the best spin for all sides on what they've done.

Gutmann and Thompson seem to be the real deal, though: they actually believe that compromises are simply good, a goal in and of itself. But what about compromises that didn't turn out so well? The three fifth compromise -- was that one to be proud of?

I think many of the better moments in American history were in fact not compromises -- they were outright victories, instilling new rights. Sometimes a compromise can lead to an incremental victory that leads to final victory and justice, certainly. But some of our biggest advances in the end have nothing to do with compromise, be it the ending of slavery or the start of women's suffrage.

Gutmann (I'm a bit familiar with her work, and not Thompson's) needs an answer to American history. "Mutual respect" and "dialogue" sound well and good and all, but it sure helps if you're already the people in power. The victorious tactics of the civil rights movement, of course, would be looked down upon by Gutmann's prescriptions. How will they square that in the book?

Update 12/2: more on this from Daniel Denvir of the Philadelphia City Paper.

"Giant Radio Controlled Flying Shark"

Not making this up. It was in today's Groupon email. For real.

(I can't believe they just got a blog post out of me on this).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Politics of inequality

John Harwood has a bit in the NYT explaining just how much the politic of economic inequality may have changed in the last few months.. coinciding with the Occupy movement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy post Zuccotti

What next?

Randy Shaw makes a pretty good case that a public square occupation is just one tactic among many, and there's no reason this tactic must be seen as the be all and end all. On the other hand, this tactic has worked in ways all of the 'usual' tactics (marches, letter writing, etc) haven't.

At a GA on Saturday, the folks in New York apparently decided that another permanent outdoor occupation isn't in the works, at least not right now.

(SEIU, meanwhile, is actually trying to get people on board with some campaign about Republicans Bad, Democrats Good, which Glenn Greenwald rightly mocks. SEIU will surely get some bodies on board with this to a rally, but most occupiers will remain independent of this stuff.)

What will the next tactics be? No one knows. The unpredictability of the movement is one of its key strengths. Well, assuming there's something still to come.

Losing momentum is a huge threat. And on that front I think people need to get what a difference Occupy has already made. Hard to get the masses if they don't think you're making a difference. And to me it's fairly clear we are. Occupy has already shifted the debate tremendously, accomplishing more than the vast majority of things we've tried in the last few years.

This is working and the old tactics weren't. There are times when it's appropriate to worry "but will this make a difference?" Based on the evidence of effectiveness so far, this shouldn't really be one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meme time

Source: nickbatson

Oh Internet. BuzzFeed has a whole gallery of collected images on this.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lobby firm to bank: long term threat from Occupy Wall Street

Chris Hayes breaks the story this morning of a Wall Street lobbying firm that says the banks need to fight back hard against Occupy Wall Street, or risk consequences. That is, from their pitch to the bank:
Leading Democratic party strategists have begun to openly discuss the benefits of embracing the growing and increasingly organized Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to prevent Republican gains in Congress and the White House next year. We have seen this process of adopting extreme positions and movements to increase base voter turnout, including in the 2005-2006 immigration debate. This would mean more than just short-term discomfort for Wall Street firms. If vilifying the leading companies of this sector is allowed to become an unchallenged centerpiece of a coordinated Democratic campaign, it has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.

It shouldn't be surprising that the Democratic party or even President Obama's re-election team would campaign against Wall Street in this cycle. However the bigger concern should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies -- and might start running against them too.

This is impressive though of course is should be taken with a grain of salt: this is a lobby firm trying to drum up more business with its client, a bank. Lobby firms need business to keep going, so they make pitches that are sometimes turned down (the bank says, of course, that they have turned this one down). And even pitches that are accepted don't mean they're actually the right answer for the client.

But as Hayes points out, the bigger point is that this probably isn't the only document like it. This specific proposal may not be taken up, but it's evidence of the possible level of discussion amongst the target. And that says something.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WashPost Misleads On Own Poll Showing More Support Occupy Wall Street Than Oppose It

Peter Hart touches on this point but I wanted to expand on it. From the Washington Post's hit piece on Wednesday's front page about the Occupy movement:
In the wake of so much controversy, the Occupy movement — which began as a populist uprising to represent all but the wealthiest 1 percent — has begun to lose some of its mainstream support. A Washington Post poll early this month showed that only 18 percent of responders “strongly supported” the Occupy Wall Street movement.
There you have it: only 18 percent!

But wait, what exactly did the Post's poll from earlier this month actually find? It found this:

In other words, slightly more respondents "supported" the Occupy movement than "opposed" it. Of course, that didn't fit the Post's thesis, so...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The relation between the Keystone XL victory and Occupy Wall Street

The Administration's decision last week to delay final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline was a huge victory. It remains unclear what will happen ultimately, but this was a giant unexpected victory in the process.

Did Occupy Wall Street play some role in making this happen?

Naomi Klein makes the case:
when we started this campaign, we—and this was just three months ago that the first protests happened outside the White House—we thought we had a very slim chance of winning, like a kind of a 1 percent chance of winning. And when Occupy Wall Street happened, I had a conversation with Bill McKibben, who has just been the powerhouse behind this campaign, just a hero. And I said to Bill, "I think this is helping us. What do you think?" And he said, "I think it’s helping us, too." And the reason we believe this is because—precisely what Patrick was talking about—the ground has shifted, the climate has shifted. And what it would mean for Obama to cave in to this corporation, especially after we exposed all the cronyism going on between TransCanada and the State Department and TransCanada and the White House, this kind of corruption is precisely what’s on trial in parks and plazas around the world right now. And now that it’s been exposed, this has become the ultimate example. You know, as Bill said, we’re occupying—we’re occupying Wall Street because Wall Street is occupying the State Department. So there is a—there’s been a clear connection between, and a conversation between, these campaigns. I don’t think we would have won without Occupy Wall Street. I really—I can’t imagine how we could have. And this is what it means to change the conversation. And that’s why this whole idea—you know, "What are their demands?" and, you know, "What are they trying to accomplish?" There are already victories happening. And this is just one example of it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Evidence that Occupy Wall Street is changing the debate

See this little chart from Dylan Byers. Seems use of the words "income inequality" in the US media has shot up in the past two months.

Of course, you can't control for other factors. But this seems rather dramatic (a factor of 4), and I'm not sure what other factors there really are.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Patrick Pexton state of mind

1. Read the Washington Post op-ed page for a few days.
2. Try not to cry as Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton declares: "I think The Post needs conservative voices to balance its many liberal ones."

Bill Daley's demotion

As Ezra Klein explains it: ".. when you're promising to orient much of the election around your support for financial reform and the Republican Party's opposition to Dodd-Frank, does it really make sense for Daley, an ex-JPMorgan Chase executive who was brought on partly to repair relationships with Wall Street, to lead the effort? Probably not. And so he isn't."

Let's call this what it is and nothing less: a victory.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Post Ombudsman defends social security attack

Washington Post Ombudsman defends Lori Montgomery's social security hit job.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Strange American history

The Onion: Remains Of Ancient Race Of Job Creators Found In Rust Belt

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Important to keep them in office?

Depressing alert: The Center on Budget has a report saying that what the supercommittee Dems are offering is well to the right of the horrible Bowles-Simpson and Gang of Six plans.