Sunday, March 29, 2015

She lost the fight, but maybe she won the war

Credit: AP via ThinkProgress, 

While my father-in-law is on vacation, I am honored to be taking his place in providing chronologically relevant social commentary on items of interest in the news. As of late, what piqued my attention was the ruling in the Silicon Valley gender discrimination law suit.

Ellen Pao may have lost her gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm employer, but perhaps she is closer to helping us ("us" being relative, but lets' just say, us being women) win the war.

The fight itself was ugly, and the details that emerged throughout testimony in the Pao/Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers case were salacious. The jury concluded very decisively that the firm had not done any wrongdoing in its handling of Pao's particular case.

Nonetheless, once Ms. Pao filed her lawsuit, other women in her sector followed suit, from famous places as storied as Facebook and Twitter and Zillow and Tinder, and spoke of discrimination, misogyny, and hatred toward women. They spoke of both covert and overt discrimination. They spoke of workplaces where, on some basic level, the men acted without impunity.

I consider myself blessed for I have not worked in places with such overt discrimination. I've been affected by covert actions, as someone who works in a field that is primarily dominated by men, particularly in c-level roles. I've been passed up for jobs, steered into roles that were dominated by women (instead of mentored for the technical roles I sought out), and made to feel uncomfortable in hallways full of sport talk. And don't even get me started on how working mothers get treated.

Judging solely from news reports of the trial, Ms. Pao does not sound like someone I want to be friends with. She had a jocularity and confidence I would have found polarizing. I don't think she would have wanted me as a friend either since I had nothing to give her. Nonetheless, I still admire her courage and her pluck. She was willing to be scrutinized in such a way that I might not have wanted. She was willing to be judged, literally, by a jury of her peers but also by, like, you know, the Internet. This has me rethinking my threshold for risk and visibility in advocating for change myself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Something to Know - 25 March

My daughter-in-law, Sirinya Matute, has always been archiving my "stuff" into a blog, which shall forever contain all of my past stuff.   She will be making additional commentary in my absence.  She graduated from Smith College, and has her Masters in Urban Planning from the Luskin School at UCLA, where she met my son.   Anyway, the link to this archive, known as "The Juan Percent" is:   http://www.thejuanpercent.com/

She will entertain you while Lynne and I are away, and may give you some insight into the world of urban transportation issues and a view of the world from the eyes of someone much younger than I.  My son, may also add something to the mix.
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Taking a Break

v

To all my friends and readers (or at least recipients) of my "Something to Know" messages, I will be away from internet access and unable to send much of anything.   My wife and I, and my college room mate and his wife, are off to Singapore and will board a 45-day cruise to many lands and ports of call that we have been planning for a while.   We will return some time in middle May.   There should be plenty of stuff happening, so keep up with the news.   If any of you are wondering what a 45-day cruise looks like and does, this is a link.   This is actually a good way to visit some places I have never been to before, and probably never will return to visit.  It is impossible to even get to really know the people and places in these short ports of call,  but going by boat is a whole lot less hassle than air travel, and my wife and I are ex-airline employees with travel benefits (if you want to call them that these days with all planes being full year-round).   Once on the ship, the bags and stuff are all unpacked, and there is no more packing and unpacking until the boat ride is over.   No checking in and out of hotels at each city.  No chasing around for transportation and worrying about getting ripped off by unscrupulous cabbies, and no worries about where you are going to go for your next meal.   Meet new people, read and discuss, and relax, and then go-go-go on a new shore excursion - it is all good.   The aim is to stay on the boat as long as you can afford it.   We travel in the cabins that have little windows just above the water line - nothing fancy.   Try it - you'll like it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Something to Know 23 March

x
Clay Bennett

This article does an excellent job of detailing what is wrong and what is holding us back from being all that the USA could be.   It is a powerful commentary on the the effects of globalization and America's intractable malaise in resting on a belief that we are and will always be the greatest and most exceptional.   Only thing wrong is that we are not the greatest any more.  The others are passing us by, and we fail to take the necessary action to protect our strengths.   We seem to be our own worst enemy by failing to realize this demise, and our right-of-center politicos are the ones responsible.  Is this just another "flaky" whine from the left?   I don't think so, and may be another call to action: 
MARCH 17, 2015
The Biggest Threat to America's Future Is … America

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Britain, France, Germany, and Italy have decided, over the objections of the United States, to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new international-development institution, set up by China, that is poised to become a potential rival to the World Bank.Britain, France, Germany, and Italy have decided, over the objections of the United States, to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new international-development institution, set up by China, that is poised to become a potential rival to the World Bank.CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY TAKAKI YAJIMA-POOL / GETTY

On a day when much of the world's attention is turned to Israel and its elections, I've been thinking about another foreign story that has been receiving less coverage but could, in the long run, turn out to be equally significant: the news that Britain, France, Germany, and Italy have decided, over the objections of the United States, to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new international-development institution, set up by China, that is poised to become a potential rival to the World Bank.

Who cares about a new development bank, you may ask? By way of an answer, let me engage in a bit of historical analysis. It may seem like a pointless detour at first, but I promise to circle back to the news.

Many years ago, after the stock-market crash of 1987, an acquaintance of mine who works on Wall Street told me, "Don't bet against the U.S. of A." It turned out to be good advice. Despite forty years of income stagnation for many middle-class Americans, a glaring rise in inequality, the Great Recession and its aftermath—despite it all, the American economy is still the world's most advanced. It represents the "production frontier" that other countries are working toward.

Productivity is higher in the United States than in Europe or Asia, which reflects the country's deep reservoirs of natural endowments, skilled labor, and technology. American scientific research leads the world, and, according to one U.K.-based survey, fifteen of the world's top twenty universities are American. U.S. financial markets are deeper and more liquid than financial markets elsewhere, and, despite advances in places like the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, there is not yet a real competitor to Silicon Valley and Wall Street when it comes to incubating innovation.

To those who argue that the American Century is over, I say: look around. If you do, chances are you'll be using an American-built search engine and an American-designed Web browser, and arriving at American-produced content. Over the past half century, many countries around the world have closed some of the economic gap with the United States, but with the exception of Norway—a special case because of its tiny size (population: five million) and vast oil reserves—none of them have moved ahead in terms of G.D.P. per capita.

This picture may change over the next thirty or forty years, but I wouldn't bet on it. History, economic theory, and common sense all suggest that it is possible to copy the economic leader's methods, but far harder to overtake it. During the seventies and eighties, Western Europe learned this lesson. In the nineties and aughts, it was Japan's turn. If China keeps expanding at the rates of the past couple of decades, it will eventually face the same dilemma.

Of course, as other countries, especially Asian ones, continue to develop, the U.S. share of global trade, G.D.P., and wealth will diminish. But that won't necessarily reflect any failing on America's part. It is the inevitable consequence of globalization and the development of a single worldwide market economy. Until around 1990, many big countries had cut themselves off from global capitalism and the opportunities it provides for the transmission of capital and knowledge. Today, Eastern Europe, China, India, and, increasingly, parts of Africa are all active players. As a result, the U.S. economy looms less large, in relative terms, than it once did, even as, by almost any measure, America is still number one.

One of the reasons these developments matter is that, in the long run, military power and strategic power reflect economic power. The Roman Empire, like other ancient hegemons, was built on an extensive slave economy. Portugal, Spain, and Holland, in their imperial heydays, were great trading nations. The British Empire, which at one point covered almost a quarter of the world's land, was built on cotton, coal, iron, and steel—the industries of the industrial revolution. As other countries, notably Germany and the United States, caught up, the British were eventually forced to retreat, with the Second World War serving as the decisive blow.

Absent an unforeseen catastrophe, Pax Americana won't suffer the same sudden end that Pax Britannica did. But over time it will be challenged, which raises a key question: Can the American psyche, and the American political system, adapt to a new reality in which the United States retains its position of leadership but no longer enjoys unquestioned dominance? So far, some of the signs are encouraging, while others are worrying.

The good news is that the American people, although patriotic and, on occasion, nationalistic, are not by their nature jingoistic imperialists. To the contrary, many of them are instinctively isolationist. Even though the United States maintains scores of military bases around the world, spends more on defense than all the other major powers combined, and is engaged almost constantly in wars somewhere on the planet (officially declared or otherwise), most Americans would object to the idea that they have an empire, whether formal or informal.

This self-deception sometimes borders on the pathological, but from a strategic point of view it is an advantage. It suggests that if the transition to shared world leadership could be managed peacefully, and in a manner that didn't insult U.S. pride, most Americans would probably accept it. Already, we hear calls from U.S. officials for the country's allies in NATO to beef up their defense spending and take on more of the burden. In Iraq, the United States is now relying on an enemy, Iran, to take the fight on the ground to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, which in the grand scheme of things is a nuisance to the United States, rather than an existential threat. If Americans object to this arrangement, they are keeping strangely quiet about it.

Unfortunately, the widespread recognition that America can't do everything coexists with a set of outdated presumptions and practices, which still dominate many policy discussions in Washington and are already doing considerable harm to the U.S.'s standing. If these nostrums and patterns of behavior aren't updated, they will end up doing far more damage. Indeed, it's barely an exaggeration to say that the real threat to American power and influence comes from within America itself, specifically from its increasingly dysfunctional political system.

Take the transatlantic diplomatic row over the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. In itself, it isn't a huge story, but it is a straw in the wind.

In June of last year, China announced that it was expanding its plans for a new international-development bank, which would be based in Beijing and would lend money for infrastructure investments across Asia. This happened after the Chinese were repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to play a larger role in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the two big Washington-based lending institutions that were set up after the Second World War, and in the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, which was founded in 1966.

Since their establishment seventy years ago, the World Bank and the I.M.F. have played an important role in stabilizing and legitimizing the U.S.-dominated global economy, directly furthering U.S. interests in the process. In many other countries, indeed, they have long been viewed as conduits for the Treasury Department and the White House. At least a decade ago, as Asia's importance to the world economy increased, smart officials in Washington came to realize that this situation couldn't continue indefinitely, and that if the Bank and the I.M.F. were to maintain their influence they would have to be reformed, with China, India, and other Asian countries playing bigger roles. In November, 2010, after years of tortuous negotiations, a package to reform the I.M.F. was agreed upon: the Fund's resources would be doubled, and China, in particular, would get more of a say in its internal deliberations.

That seemed like a step in the right direction, but Congress refused to go along with it. Following the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans repeatedly sidelined legislation approving the I.M.F. reforms, and early last year they blocked them again, seemingly for good. This provided the Chinese the perfect backdrop against which to pursue their own initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and market it to other Western countries, who are themselves keen to attract Chinese business deals and inward investment. Now, despite objections from the Obama Administration, four of the U.S.'s closest allies have agreed to join the new institution as founding members. Speaking on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, seemed resigned to the new reality. "It's not an accident that emerging economies are looking at other places because they are frustrated that, frankly, the United States has stalled a very mild and reasonable set of reforms in the I.M.F.," he said.

International finance is far from the only area in which Congressional intransigence and wrongheadedness are undermining U.S. interests. The open letter to Tehran that forty-seven G.O.P. senators signed last week comes to mind. What was jarring about the letter wasn't just the sight of one branch of the U.S. government telling the leaders of a rival nation that the President, with whose representatives the leaders were negotiating a nuclear deal, would be gone in a couple of years. It was the suspicion that this unprecedented communication was, at root, a poorly thought through political gesture. In this area, as in many others, domestic politics had trumped the national interest. Immigration reform, infrastructure investments, environmental initiatives, health-care reform, servicing the national debt, and, now, appointing a new attorney general to oversee the U.S. legal system—in all of these areas, the same story can be told over and over.

At any one time, it is easy to dismiss dysfunction in Washington as meaningless; believe me, I do it all the time. When political paralysis and political role-playing become institutionalized and extended over time, however, they can end up sapping a nation's vigor. Constant palace intrigue (sometimes accompanied by civil war) helped to undermine imperial Rome. In the fifteenth century, China's Ming dynasty, after another bout of infighting, took the fateful decision to turn inward and ignore the outside world. France, a superpower of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, could never reconcile the financial demands of the Bourbon monarchy and near-constant war with the power of the local appellate courts, which resisted imposing higher taxes.

In a country of plentiful resources and vast acreage, America's decentralized political system was, for a long time, a major advantage. It allowed policies to be tailored to local needs and prevented the emergence of an overweening state, while still enabling the mobilization of sufficient resources to develop extensive transportation and public-education systems, as well as the hydrogen bomb, the space program, the Internet, and much else besides.

Today, however, it is hard to make the argument that the U.S. political system is serving the country well. With heightened competition and new global challenges, such as the rise of China, the United States badly needs to acknowledge the new realities and improve its game. Despite the country's enduring economic strength, its conception of its role in the world is outmoded, its infrastructure is crumbling, and its test scores are lagging in math and other areas, despite its impressive performance in cutting-edge research. At the very least, it needs to preserve some of its old techniques of maintaining power, including fostering institutions through which it can exercise "soft power" and serving as a magnet for talented and hard-working immigrants, who provide it with invaluable skills and entrepreneurship.

Rather than accomplishing any of these things, Washington seems to be trapped in a never-ending back and forth, in which sloganeering substitutes for analysis and political point-scoring is elevated above policymaking. It's a dismal spectacle, and if it goes on indefinitely it will exact an increasingly high price. Not the sudden collapse of Pax Americana, perhaps, but the gradual undermining of it.


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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Something to Know - 21 March

xMike Luckovich

I have had a heck of a time trying to stay up with all the news:  water drought, Israeli election, our dysfunctional congress, all matters race tension, Hillary's gmail issues, etc.  This op-ed by Timothy Egan resonates around the hypocrisy of the GOP operatives who masquerade behind the coat tails of Horatio Alger.  Economic Inequality here in the USA and everywhere is the root of much pf the  human misery and to preach fairy tales to obscure the truth is almost criminal:


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/opinion/traitors-to-their-class.html?emc=eta1

The Opinion Pages | CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER

Traitors to Their Class

MARCH 20, 2015

You probably know from his weepy reminiscences that the speaker of the House, John Boehner, once worked as a bartender and a janitor, and took seven years to get out of college. Maybe you've heard that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is a preacher's son who churned out burgers and fries at McDonald's. And you had to catch that bit from Senator Joni Ernst about putting bread bags over her shoes while growing up kind of poor in rural Iowa.

People from humble beginnings often carry an extra load of empathy through the success of their later lives, a sense that, with a few bad breaks, things could have gone the other way.


Ernst, the lump-of-coal-hearted new senator from Iowa, and Walker, who always seems to be promoting something that needs actuarial tables to disguise, at times sound as if they actively despise the poor.
And there's the party of tough luck, pal. In the case of the three Republican leaders cited above, and most of those who aspire to be the G.O.P.presidential nominee next year, these Horatio Algerians for the new Gilded Age are working to keep the downtrodden down. They are traitors to their class, with all the strutting moral superiority that comes with the conversion.

Last fall, Walker opposed raising the minimum wage in Wisconsin from the poverty-level $7.25 an hour. After a group of workers claimed that the threshold violated a state mandate to offer a "living wage," Walker's administration slapped them down. Even though a minimum-wage worker would have to put in 81 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin, Walker's people saw no need to offer a few pennies more to those earning the least.

What's behind this? Part of it is Walker's fealty to the restaurant industry. Part of it is his inaccurate belief that raising the minimum wage kills jobs. And part of it is dewy-eyed nostalgia for the days when he was a lad earning his first paycheck under the Golden Arches. He made it. Why can't they?

"In America, it is one of the few places left in the world where it doesn't matter what class you were born into," Walker said in Iowa in January. "It doesn't matter what your parents do for a living."

Except it does. Much of the new evidence on the causes of inequality finds that moving up from one class to the other in America has gotten far more difficult. The rich, even doofus members of said class, get the right tutors that get them into the right schools where they make connections to get the right jobs. They never face the peril of losing everything because of say, a large medical bill, or the dead weight of a college loan.

As for Walker's outdated take on wages and prosperity, he could look to states that have raised their minimum wage and are creating jobs at a faster pace than the states holding to the lowest pay.

Meanwhile, Walker's low-wage fortress of Wisconsin lags behind the national average in job creation. If paying people next to nothing at the entry level were such a design for growth, employers would be flocking to the Badger State. Even Walmart, which built the original business model for how to make billions on the backs of people who need state assistance for the basic things in life, will soon be paying its serfs more than Scott Walker thinks is necessary to live on.

Senator Ernst loves to talk about growing up in the rosy patina of near-poverty. "My mom made all our clothes," she wrote on her campaign website. "We went to church every week, helped our neighbors when they needed it, and they did the same for us."


Bartender Boehner was probably a decent dude at happy hour. But Speaker of the House Boehner has no tolerance for the kind of folks who might have wandered into his family tavern, Andy's CafĂ©, after losing a job. As people in one state after another vote to raise their minimum wage — red states and blue — Boehner will not allow a simple vote on that most basic pay principle to take place in the House. He once said he'd
 commit suicide rather than vote to raise the minimum wage.See, you deadbeats: Why can't you just stitch together your own clothes and grab an extra chicken wing at the church picnic if you're hungry? Of course, she opposed raising Iowa's minimum wage. And she thinks subsidizing health care for lower-middle-class families is a terrible idea. She's working, with most Republicans in Congress, to take away health care for millions of Americans.

Giving the people who flip burgers, clean floors and stock grocery shelves a few dimes more an hour is not a handout. Offering working people some help on their insurance premiums does not promote dependence. Nor do those things hurt the economy — just the opposite.

So where is this coming from? The class traitors guiding the Republican Party, and the harsh new federal budget unveiled this week, usually promote their policies using personal anecdotes. Their condescension toward the poor springs from their own narratives: They are virtuous because they made it, or vice versa. Those who haven't made a similar leap are weaklings. It's a variant of Mitt Romney's view that 47 percent of Americans are moochers. Stripped to its essence, it's a load of loathing for their former class, delivered on a plate of platitudes.


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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Something to See - 14 March

There are some rare photographs taken, since the advent of cameras to the present.   Here are some that have been enhanced and colorized.   Each photo captures the essence of a particular piece of history that is brought to its full impact by these restorations and presentations:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Andy Borowitz


TEHRAN (The Borowitz Report)—Stating that "their continuing hostilities are a threat to world peace," Iran has offered to mediate talks between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, made the offer one day after Iran received what he called a "worrisome letter" from Republican leaders, which suggested to him that "the relationship between Republicans and Obama has deteriorated dangerously."

"Tensions between these two historic enemies have been high in recent years, but we believe they are now at a boiling point," Khamenei said. "As a result, Iran feels it must offer itself as a peacemaker."

He said that his nation was the "logical choice" to jumpstart negotiations between Obama and the Republicans because "it has become clear that both sides currently talk more to Iran than to each other."

He invited Obama and the Republicans to meet in Tehran to hash out their differences and called on world powers to force the two bitter foes to the bargaining table, adding, "It is time to stop the madness."

Hours after Iran made its offer, President Obama said that he was willing to meet with his congressional adversaries under the auspices of Tehran, but questioned whether "any deal reached with Republicans is worth the paper it's written on."

For their part, the Republicans said they would only agree to talks if there were no preconditions, such as recognizing President Obama's existence.



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Thursday, March 5, 2015

You Need to Know This

In addition to today's mailing, I have to pass this one on.   The Justice Department could not take further action on the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, but what came down on the police department, and the city of Ferguson may be enough to start the process on how we better understand the oppression and marginalization of people of poverty and color.   If this opens your eyes, then that is the first step:

Something to Know - 5 March

xJeff Danziger

A reconstituted Lawrence Summers is now giving light to a school of thought that just might be what is needed now in this country.  Speaking Truth to Power.   



Establishment Populism Rising

MARCH 4, 2015

Larry Summers, who withdrew his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve under pressure from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in 2013, has emerged as the party's dominant economic policy strategist. The former Treasury secretary's evolving message has won over many of his former critics.

Summers's ascendance is a reflection of the abandonment by much of the party establishment of neo-liberal thinking, premised on the belief that unregulated markets and global trade would produce growth beneficial to worker and C.E.O. alike.

Summers's analysis of current economic conditions suggests that free market capitalism, as now structured, is producing major distortions. These distortions, in his view, have resulted in gains of $1 trillion annually to those at the top of the pyramid, and losses of $1 trillion every year to those in the bottom 80 percent.





At a Feb. 19 panel discussion on the future of work organized by the Hamilton Project, a centrist Democratic think tank, Summers defied economic orthodoxy. He dismissed as "whistling past the graveyard" the widely accepted view that improving education and job training is the most effective way to reduce joblessness.

"The core problem," according to Summers, is that

there aren't enough jobs, and if you help some people, you can help them get the jobs, but then someone else won't get the jobs. And unless you're doing things that are affecting the demand for jobs, you're helping people win a race to get a finite number of jobs, and there are only so many of them.

He adds that he is "all for" more schooling and job training, but as an answer to the problems of the job marketplace, "it is fundamentally an evasion."

This line of thought has strong appeal to liberal economists and policy makers who argue that government must intervene to create more demand for workers, primarily by spending more, especially spending that goes to private contractors who would then start hiring.

Summers dismissed as palliative such relatively modest proposals as supplementing the earnings of low-wage workers by increasing the earned-income tax credit and expanding eligibility for the refundable credit.

Even a 50 percent increase in the earned-income tax credit at a cost of $25 billion would barely address current income inequality, Summers said.According to Summers:

If we had the same income distribution in the United States that we did in 1979, the top 1 percent would have $1 trillion less today [in annual income], and the bottom 80 percent would have $1 trillion more. That works out to about $700,000 [a year for] for a family in the top 1 percent, and works out to about $11,000 a year for a family in the bottom 80 percent.

The lion's share of the income of the top 1 percent is concentrated in the top 0.1 percent and 0.01 percent. The average income of the top 1 percent in 2013, according to data provided by Emmanuel Saez, a Berkeley economist, was $1.2 million, for the top 0.1 percent, $5.3 million, and for the top 0.01 percent, $24.9 million.

In other words, any attempt to correct the contemporary pattern in income distribution would require large and controversial changes in tax policy, regulation of the workplace, and intervention in the economy to expand employment and to raise wages.

To counter the weak employment market, Summers called for major growth in government expenditures to fill needs that the private sector is not addressing:

In our society, whether it is taking care of the young or taking care of the old, or repairing a lot that needs to be repaired, there is a huge amount of very valuable work that needs to be done. It's much less clear, to use a modern phrase, that there's a viable business model for getting it done. And I guess the reason why I think there is going to need to be a lot of reflection on the role of government going forward is that, if I'm right, that there's vitally important work to be done for which there is no standard capital business model that will get it done. That suggests important roles for public policy.

Earlier this year, Summers co-wrote the Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a forceful set of economic proposals released on Jan. 15 by the Center for American Progress.

In order to stem the disproportionate share of income flowing to corporate managers and owners of capital, and to address the declining share going to workers, the report calls for tax and regulatory policies to encourageemployee ownership, the strengthening of collective bargaining rights, regulations requiring corporations to provide fringe benefits to employees working for subcontractors, a substantial increase in the minimum wage, sharper overtime pay enforcement, and a huge increase in infrastructure appropriations – for roads, bridges, ports, schools – to spur job creation and tighten the labor market.

Summers also calls for significant increases in the progressivity of the United States tax system. He would eliminate or modify many of the tax breaks that now provide most of their benefits to the affluent, including the conversion of the mortgage interest deduction into a credit. "While deductions deliver a larger benefit to tax payers in higher tax brackets, credits deliver the same benefits to all tax payers, making the tax code more progressive," the report notes. In addition, the report presses for much tougher rules governing the taxation of corporate overseas income.

I spoke with Summers on the phone last week to get more details about his thinking. One of his central goals, he said, is to make sure that "workers get a larger share of the pie." He advocates aggressive steps to eliminate "rents" — profits that result from monopoly or other forms of government protection from competition. Summers favors attacking rents in the form of "exclusionary zoning practices" that bid up the price of housing, "excessively long copyright" protections, and financial regulations"providing implicit subsidies to a fortunate minority."

Signaling that he now finds himself on common ground with stalwarts of the Democratic left like Elizabeth Warren and Joe Stiglitz, Summers adds, "Government needs to try to make sure everyone can get access to financial markets on an equal basis."

Along with a growing number of Democratic policy advocates, Summers supports looking past income inequality to the distribution of wealth. During our conversation, he pointed out that "a large fraction of capital gains escapes taxation entirely" through "the stepped up basis at death."Stepped up basis refers to an I.R.S. provision reducing the capital gains tax liability on inherited assets so that the beneficiary's capital gains tax is minimized. Revenue losses from the stepped up basis amounted, in the 2014 fiscal year, to $36.4 billion according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Summers's policy proposals have been praised by former critics.


Dean Baker, co-director of the
 Center for Economic and Policy Research, which sponsors the work of liberal economists, replied to my inquiry: "It's funny you would ask this. I was just writing something praising Summers and others for changing their thinking."Asked for his assessment of Summers's views, Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal, pro-labor Economic Policy Institute, emailed "I very much appreciate that Larry Summers has recently highlighted the need for a 'high pressure economy' and the need to 'expand worker bargaining power.' "

In his not-yet-published pro-Summers essay, Baker writes:

The idea that an economy could suffer from a persistent shortage of demand is an enormous switch for Summers or anyone who had been adhering to the economic orthodoxy in the three decades prior to the crisis

in 2008. Baker goes on to argue that Summers "now recognizes that the financial system needs serious regulation."

Some economists disagree with Summers. David Autor, a professor of economics at M.I.T., wrote in an email that Summers seems

to presuppose that we have entered an era of secular stagnation with perennially insufficient demand. I don't share this pessimism, and I think many indicators point in the right direction: employment growth, wage trends, inflation, energy prices, even inequality.

In a follow-up email, Summers took note of Dean Baker's assertion that Summers had changed his views, replying that John Maynard Keynes

is said to have responded to a similar question by saying 'when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?' Much has changed since the 1990s, including protracted shortfalls in demand, a dramatic decline in labor's share of income, the pulling away of the top 1 percent, the possible emergence of secular stagnation, and the financial crisis. So of course my policy views have evolved.

Summers has advised Hillary Clinton on economic issues, and a key question looking toward 2016 is how much of the Summers agenda she is prepared to adopt, if she decides to run for president.

Many of the policies outlined by Summers — especially on trade, taxation, financial regulation and worker empowerment — are the very policies that divide the Wall-Street-corporate wing from the working-to-middle-class wing of the Democratic Party. Put another way, these policies divide the money wing from the voting wing.

Summers has forced out in the open a set of choices that Hillary Clinton has so far avoided, choices that even if she attempts to elide them will amount to a signal of where her loyalties lie.



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