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Entries by Robert Kuttner from 11/2012

Fix the Debt or Save the Coasts?

| Posted 11.02.2012 | Politics

The new normal is here, the legacy of our denial of the reality of climate change. The federal government needs to do a comprehensive assessment of the public investment necessary to protect our coasts, which will run into the trillions of dollars.

Notes for a Manifesto

| Posted 11.04.2012 | Politics

The enormity of last week's super-storm is just beginning to sink into political consciousness. Hurricane Sandy should transform what Americans expect from their government, and give the party of government activism new force. As soon as the election is behind us, the country faces a major struggle over what the super-storm portends and requires. But that struggle will be as much within the Democratic Party as between Democrats and the right, because of the deadweight of austerity politics. If the fix is in for a budget deal that precludes government's ability to spend serious money on climate remediation, flood protection, and a shift to a non-carbon economy, the United States of America is just plain screwed. Few presidents get a do over. Let's see whether Obama grasps the challenge and the possibilities.

Let's Not Make a Deal

| Posted 11.11.2012 | Politics

The good news is that the Democrats won the election and President Obama's spine has been stiffened on the subject of taxes. The bad news is that the skids are greased for a budget deal that cuts more than necessary, risks putting the economy back into recession, and blurs differences between the parties on critical issues like Social Security and Medicare. If Obama will just realize it, he holds most of the cards. He prevailed in the election. Most voters agree that the rich should pay higher taxes. Most don't want cuts in Medicare and Social Security. But by all appearances, the eager-beaver bipartisan Obama that we saw in early 2009 (until he got his clock cleaned) is back. Despite his recent victory, if he is too eager to make a deal, he -- and we -- will get rolled. Last time, Boehner's Republicans saved Obama from himself. This time, it will be up to his fellow Democrats.

Ben Bernanke for Treasury Secretary

| Posted 11.18.2012 | Politics

Why Bernanke to succeed Tim Geithner? He is probably the most influential and credible person in official Washington who is not part of the echo chamber on deficit reduction, and a Treasury secretary concerned more about recovery than austerity is just what Obama needs. And because the Fed, almost by definition, is assumed to be conservative, Bernanke would provide some cover for an expansionary program. I can think of people who'd be even better than Bernanke but I can't think of anyone as good who stands a prayer of being nominated. It's nothing short of weird when the most reliable progressive in town around turns out to be the chairman of the Federal Reserve. But such are the reactionary times in which we live.

Ben Bernanke comme secrétaire du Trésor

| Posted 11.20.2012 | France

ÉTATS-UNIS - Un secrétaire du Trésor se préoccupant plus de reprise que d'austérité est exactement ce dont Obama a besoin. Et parce que la Réserve fédérale est considérée comme conservatrice, presque par définition, Bernanke garantirait le maintien d'un programme de reprise.

The Fiscal Myth

| Posted 11.25.2012 | Politics

As President Obama gets closer to making his deal with the Republicans on the budget, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the fiscal cliff is an artificially contrived trap. Were it not for the two Bush wars and the two Bush tax cuts and the House Republican games of brinksmanship with the routine extension of the debt ceiling, there would be no "fiscal cliff." Rather, there would be a normal, relatively short-term increase in the deficit resulting from a deep recession and the drop in government revenues that it produces. When the economy recovered, the deficit would return to sustainable levels. In the meantime, these deficits are necessary and useful to maintain public spending as a tonic to the economy.