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Obama Embraces Marriage Equality, Media Tires of Occupy, Greece Talks Fails, Endgame Coming in Europa, Debtfare

May 10th, 2012 - by:

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Commentaries, Analysis, Rants, Dissections

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The Hill Obama endorses gay marriage

(Note how supporters speak of marriage equality while the press speaks of “gay rights” as if only one grouo benefits, not the society)

President Obama on Wednesday endorsed gay marriage, becoming the first U.S. president to voice support for same sex couples to legally marry.

The announcement is a landmark for the gay rights movement, which has battled for decades to win legal recognition for same sex marriages.

Yes the sudden pivot by Obama in an election year on the explosive issue exposes his campaign’s risks, which could alienate some socially-conservative, independent voters who do not support the issue.

•The Atlantic: North Carolina’s Vote to Ban Gay Marriage Is a Warning to Obama

•Greece: The leader of Greece’s far-left Syriza bloc, Alexis Tsipras, has abandoned his efforts to form a governing coalition.

Mr Tsipras said he had failed to reach agreement with mainstream parties because of his insistence on rejecting austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF as part of a bailout deal.

He made the announcement after failed talks with the Pasok and New Democracy parties, which support the bailout.

Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos is now expected to try to form a coalition.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says there are serious doubts over whether Mr Venizelos will succeed – meaning a new election and a prolonged political crisis seem increasingly inevitable.

•Zerohedge: Greek Jobless Soar By 42%

Greek coalition talks remain deadlocked

If no deal is reached in next few days, new elections will be called, amid concerns over country’s future in eurozone.

AlJazeera: Q&A: Greece’s austerity alternatives

FT: What Hollande must tell Germany

By Martin Wolf – The Financial Times

The elections in France and Greece tell us that austerity fatigue has set in. This is not surprising. For many countries no plausible exit exists from depression, deflation and despair. If the currency union were a normal fixed exchange rate arrangement, it would collapse, as did the gold standard in the 1930s and the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s. The question is whether the fact that it is a monetary union will do more than delay that outcome. The last chance of bringing needed change rests on the shoulders of François Hollande, the newly elected president of France. Mr Hollande says his mission is to give Europe “a dimension of growth and prosperity”. So can he achieve this laudable aim?

Fiscal tightening does not improve outcomes in shrinking economies. Thus, austerity is merely begetting more austerity. According to the International Monetary Fund, the ratio of gross public debt to gross domestic product will rise, not fall, in every year from 2008 to 2013 in Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It will briefly fall in Greece, but only because of its debt restructuring.

The most frightening data are for unemployment (see chart). The proportion of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are now without a job is 51 per cent in Greece and Spain, 36 per cent in Portugal and Italy and 30 per cent in Ireland. France is in better shape, but even there the picture is dire, with one in five young people out of work. Is it plausible that people will put up with this indefinitely? No. Far more likely is a repetition of the protest votes we have seen in these elections. Nicolas Sarkozy was the eighth leader of a eurozone member country to have been swept from office in little over a year.

Naked Capitalism,conL Wolf Richter, Blowback from Sarkozy’s Election Finance Shenanigans

Europe greeted with excitement—and exasperation—the arrival of the “President of Growth,” as Le Figaro has renamed François Hollande, perhaps tongue in cheek given its conservative bend. Merkel would receive him with “open arms,” but the fiscal union pact that 25 of 27 EU countries signed and that Hollande wants to renegotiate, would remain “non-negotiable” because, as she patiently explained, “it’s not possible to renegotiate everything after each election.” But she might be open to a growth pact so long as it doesn’t exacerbate the debt crisis.

Meanwhile, the day after his defeat, outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed in a meeting with some of his ministers and party heavy weights that he’d quit politics. “I will not be a candidate in the legislative elections or any elections to come,” he said. He who is going down in history as the only President of the Fifth Republic during whose term France actually lost jobs—200,000 while the working population continued to swell, pushing unemployment to near 10%—well, he wanted to take his marbles and “live a little normally.” He complained about journalists dogging him, about how he couldn’t even have lunch with his family at a restaurant. “I’m spied on,” he said (ironically, as we will see). “I hope they will leave me alone.” But that’s precisely what they won’t do—because on May 15 at midnight, when he will cease being President of France, Sarkozy will also emerge from under the umbrella of presidential immunity that so far has protected him against a ton of increasingly malodorous allegations.

“Yes, as Prime Minister, I myself supervised the issue of financing Sarkozy’s campaign from Tripoli,” Baghdadi Ali Mahmudi, Secretary of the General People’s Committee of Libya from March 2006 to September 2011, told the Court of Appeals in Tunesia, when it examined the

•Credit Writedowns: Endgame Coming in Europe

I do not think the events in France and Spain are going to be the catalyst for seismic change in policy responses. More likely, the sovereign debt crisis will impose policy change upon European policy makers after markets seize up and Europe risks breaking apart. Right now, Spain and its banking sector must be the focus for analysts looking to gauge the policy responses that will determine the European endgame.

•London, Bloomberg Views: “A.A. GILL: “Shareholder Spring” has come to London. Angry shareholders now see artificially fattened executive pay not only as a “serious drain on resources but as intrinsically bad for business, bad for the market.”

•ILO head says social protection is key for crisis-recovery

IPS: Africa’s Two Female Predidents

MONROVIA, May 9, 2012 (IPS) – The only two female heads of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Malawian President Joyce Banda, have just committed to using their positions to improve the lives of women across the continent.

Both Sirleaf and Banda have long championed women’s rights. And on Apr. 29 in Monrovia, two years into what the African Union (AU) has declared the “Women’s Decade”, they pledged to work together to accelerate those efforts.

“Today is a day African women must rejoice,” Banda said as Sirleaf stood by her side. “This is our day. And this is our year. And this is our decade!” And Sirleaf affirmed her – and Liberia’s – commitment to empower women.

“The two of us have great strength,” Sirleaf said. “Together, we can do more to empower women and to ensure that women’s role in society is enhanced.” She added that her country would work with the new Malawian government to advance women’s empowerment.

Economy

The Hill:House approves Ex-Im bill in bipartisan vote despite fire from right 


Republicans and Democrats in the House offered a rare glimpse of bipartisan cooperation on Wednesday by overwhelmingly approving legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

The House approved the Securing American Jobs Through Exports Act in a 330-93 vote, easily meeting the two-thirds requirement. The bill, which extends the bank’s charter through fiscal year 2014, was opposed by 93 Republicans. No Democrats voted against it.

The bill was seen by most members of both parties as a way to help support U.S. exports and spark job creation. Democrats in particular praised the bill as an element of their “Make It in America” agenda, most of which House Republicans have ignored, and welcomed the bipartisan agreement to move it ahead.

The right-wing blasted the Decision by the GOP dominated Congress

May 9, 2012, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson issued the following statement blasting the House of Representatives’ passage of the $140 billion re-authorization for the Export Import Bank of the United States:

“The House had an opportunity to show that corporate welfare in any form is unacceptable, and yet again blew it by not only reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, but by adding $40 billion to its lending capacity. Every member who voted yes now must explain to their constituents why they support a bank that gave millions to bankrupt Solyndra. Why they support a bank that gives foreign companies an edge over U.S. companies in the global economy. And why they support a bank that has wasted billions manipulating markets rather than allowing market forces to determine demand.”

••Matt Taiibbi, Rolling Stone (RSN) Austerity Can’t Be Just For Regular People

Naked Capitalism.com: Welcome to Debt Fare

The Bankruptcy “Reforms” of 2005: Creation of a New Debtor’s Prison?

An article by law professor Linda Coco, “Debtor’s Prison in the Neoliberal State: ‘Debtfare’ and the Cultural Logics of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005,” (hat tip Michael Hudson) is a an informative, if disheartening, overview of the significance of the bankruptcy law reforms implemented in 2005.

Debtor’s Prison in the Neoliberal State

One might cynically observe that after 25 years of making it easier for consumers to borrow and encouraging them to load up, banks realized that they might have too much of a good thing and realized they needed to improve their ability to extract payments from the credit junkies they had created. But the passage of the 2005 law had been a prize the financial services industry had chased for over a decade. Credit card company MBNA (later bought by Bank of America) was one of the most aggressive backers of the bill. MBNA had penciled out that the new law would increase its profits $85 million a year, by extracting an extra $100 a month on average from consumers in bankruptcy.

As Coco points out, bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren said the new law would destroy the consumer bankruptcy system. It greatly restricted access to Chapter 7 bankruptcies (which apply all consumer funds, ex retirement accounts, to existing debts and wipes out the balance) and also made certain types of debt non-dischargeable, most important, student loans (note the change applied to private student loans). It also created hurdles to filing bankruptcy by making the process more costly: higher court charges and attorney fees, as well as requiring useless but borrower-paid credit counseling. As Jialan Wang noted in VoxEU, these changes increased the cost of filing for bankruptcy by 60%. She and her co-authors of a NBER paper found that this had the intended effect of inhibiting families from filing for bankruptcy, and getting an extra chunk of cash (they looked at tax rebates) led to an uptick in bankruptcy filings. She noted:

Liquidity-constrained households are likely to have the most to gain from bankruptcy, yet they are the ones screened out by high fees. Moreover, the increased costs do little to mitigate strategic behavior such as OJ Simpson’s notorious purchase of an expensive home in Florida to exploit that state’s generous bankruptcy provisions.

This is only one piece of a bigger picture, and Coco sees the overall impact as a major shift between creditor and borrower rights, the creation of “debtfare”

•Fluent: ‘Romney’s new normal for job creation

•The Atlantic, We Are the 99.5%: The Real Inequality Jump Is in the Top Half-Percentile

•Fluent: SEC says Kilpatrick extracted lavish gifts’

Wars

•Guardian: Washington’s War Of Words Against Iran

•Naomi Wolf,Guardian: Overhyped Plots Feed a Surveillance Industry

•Fluent: ‘As U.S.-Taliban talks stall, hope for political solution dims’

• Fluent: ‘Putin tells Obama he’ll skip G8 summit’

••Fluent: UPDATE: CRASHED JET FOUND: ‘Searchers in Indonesia Hunt for Lost Jet With 48′

Quote of the Day, David Graeber,RSN/Guardian:

“Occupy is shedding its liberal accretions and rapidly turning into something with much deeper roots, creating alliances that promise to transform the very notion of revolutionary politics in America.”

Culture/Media

•AJE: Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys was a Muslim hero

•Guernica: Rebecca Solnit on the Hunger Games

•Yesterday, the NY Court of Appeals ruled that it is legal to view child pornography on the Internet. See this article for more details:http://on.msnbc.com/KFnkOH

•FAIR: Media Bored With Occupy, Economic Inequality

As mentions of “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy movement” waned in early 2012, so too have mentions of “income inequality” and, to an even greater extent, “corporate greed.” The trend is true for four leading papers (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, L.A. Times), news programs on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News) and NPR, according to searches of the Nexis news media database. Google Trends data also indicates that from January to March, the phrases “income inequality” and “corporate greed” declined in volume of both news stories and searches.

• The Atlantic: The United States of Anger and Contradiction

•NYT/EJC:
News Corp. profits increase despite scandal

News Corporation said its net income, driven largely by its strong cable television division, was USD 937m in the third quarter, which ended March 31, or 38 cents a share, compared with USD 639m, or 24 cents a share, in the period a year earlier. Revenue was up 2 percent to USD 8.4bn because of double-digit gains at cable channels like Fox News and FX, which has enjoyed a ratings increase on the strength of original dramas like “Justified.” Chase Carey, News Corporation’s president and chief operating officer, strongly objected to a British parliamentary panel’s report last week that said Rupert Murdoch, the company’s chairman and chief, was “not a fit person” to lead a major corporation. He said the company had no expectations that it would have to divest its 39 percent stake in the British Sky Broadcasting Group.

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