David Sirota

David Sirota
Denver, Colorado,
November 02
David Sirota is a political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future , the founder of the Progressive States Network and a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. He also blogs for Credo Action. and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. His two books, Hostile Takeover (2006) and The Uprising (2008) were both New York Times bestsellers. In the years before becoming a full-time writer, Sirota worked as the press secretary for Vermont Independent Congressman Bernard Sanders, the chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Center for American Progress, a campaign consultant for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a media strategist for Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont. He also previously contributed writing to the website of the California Democratic Party. For more on Sirota, see these profiles of him in Newsweek or the Rocky Mountain News. Feel free to email him at lists [at] davidsirota.com

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FEBRUARY 3, 2009 5:18PM

The Blacklisting of Progressive Economics

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Amid the swirling headlines about Tom Daschle withdrawing his nomination for Health and Human Service Secretary is a very dark, very foreboding story that tells us a lot more about what to expect from the Obama administration than a single nomination fight. It is a story that every single voter who supported Barack Obama because of his progressive economic platform should know about - and worry about.

As every newspaper in America has been happy to report, Daschle worked with venture capitalist Leo Hindery after he left the Senate. Hindery was a top economic adviser to John Edwards and later to Barack Obama, and many had floated his name for U.S. Trade Representative or Commerce Secretary. Now, though, that won't be happening, as anyone mentioned near the Daschle flap is being shunned by the Obama administration.

But is that really why someone as accomplished as Hindery was never seriously considered for a top economic post in the administration? The media and the Obama administration would like us to believe yes - but the answer is no. It has far less to do with the Daschle situation and far more to do with Hindery's progressive economic ideology.

Buried in a Politico dispatch, we get the real story:

Hindery did his best to carve out his own public profile, with generous contributions to a range of Democratic-leaning organizations and a 2005 book, "It Takes a CEO," decrying outsourcing, Wal-Mart, and "an ethical and aesthetic 'race to the bottom'" in the media industry.

He also hoped to land a job in the Obama administration, and he had a close Obama adviser - Daschle -- in his corner, the two Democrats said. United Steeelworkers union officials also backed him.

But while Hindery complained that he "waited for the phone to ring," a source said, Obama's aides appear never to have taken his bid seriously. One possible source of friction: Hindery had set himself up in opposition to Obama's top economic advisors, many of whom were associated with The Hamilton Project, an economic think tank that was the inheritor of former Treasury Secretary Rubin's generally pro-trade position.

In the same story, of course, we get hedge fund shark Steve Rattner - a huge Democratic fundraiser on Wall Street - bashing Hindery for backing populist Democratic candidates for local and national office.

And that's the big story here: Leo Hindery, one of the few business leaders to use his wealth to challenge deregulation, corporate trade deals and anti-worker policies was blacklisted by the Obama administration well before the Daschle flap ever happened - and he was blacklisted because he dared to clash with the same Wall Street Democrats whose corporate-backed policies destroyed the economy.

You can tell yourself this is just theory - just a single example. But that's willful ignorance, as the Hindrey scalping is only one chapter in what has been one long narrative arc whereby economic progressives have been deliberately shut out of top administration jobs. Just step back and think about it for a minute: Amid a stable of eminently qualified and well-respected progressives like James Galbraith, Robert Reich, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Larry Mishel, Obama has chosen Rubin sycophants like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to run the economy - the same Larry Summers who pushed the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, the same Geithner who masterminded the kleptocratic bank bailout, the same duo whose claim to fame is their personal connections to Rubin, a disgraced Citigroup executive at the center of the current meltdown. And the list of Rubin sycophants keeps getting longer, from Peter Orszag to Jason Furman.

As the Nation's Chris Hayes shows, its the same in other key regulatory positions, as free market fundamentalists who created the problem take the helm of the regulatory agencies they tried to destroy. Indeed, the only movement progressive in a top economic position is Jared Bernstein, and he was relegated to an amorphous job in the Vice President's office.

And now we see that's not an accident. Though Obama won states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana on promises to challenge Wall Street and reform our trade policies, there has been a deliberate and calculated effort to stack the administration with the very Wall Street Democrats who created the problems he lamented, and shun those who have been fighting the good fight.

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There is nothing free market about the Federal Reserve System which is the root cause of the current difficulties or the imperial system of finance that its activities were designed to support, because markets in the end are embedded in social and political contexts.
The real problem that is about to face the United States is that no one on Wall Street is thinking about the balance of power implications of what has happened, and that the Great Powers are about to get real, real competitive and quite likely violent absent radical policy shifts that are, unfortunately, unlikely to be made in time. But an interesting post as to the inbred nature of contemporary political economic discourse.
Kennedy spoke as a visionary. Obama speaks like a visionary. Knowing how to mimic is not the same as being something. Sad for all of us.
The potential problem has been the question of whether or not Obama would get beyond DLC policy and create something new. Something resembling the old Democratic Party, ver 2.0 : the pre-sellout party.
Not much encouraging yet, but too soon to be sure he isn't hiring the crooks because they know how to avoid the crimes.
If Obama becomes Clinton - the Sequel, selling out labor and consumers like the Big Dog did, the GOP will be back sooner than they deserve.
He had the chops to win, does he have the vision to govern, or just order take - out from the DLC cafe?
Inquiring minds are waiting....
I know many progressives are bitter that liberal economists aren't manning the top posts on Obama's economic team, but I would counsel patience.

With the economy on life support and the stock market so volatile, Obama has prudently chosen men and women who have already served in government and won't cause any more anxiety in the markets. Many of these liberal economists have never served in government before. Clinton's economic team was very much centrist (if not right of center) so there hasn't been a Presidential home for these progressive economists since Carter.

I think we'll see more so-called progressive economic types round out the assistant secretary and deputy-level positions in the key cabinet departments and agencies that deal with the economy. Now is no time to start a revolution on Wall Street.