(originally published on January 26, 2013)
If you want to understand the source of the world's problems, follow the Davos coverage by CNN and Bloomberg News for a few days. Not only will they tell you what the source is, they'll prove that your instincts are right about billionaires and those who present them as the arbiters of all things fair and right.
Davos is the annual billionaires' conclave where they network, get their message straight, gladhand hungry politicians, and try to determine our fate. Ladies and gentlemen, our problem isn't what the billionaires think it is. Our problem is the billionaires.
Last year, the billionaires were obsessing on income inequality. Following the Occupy protests, they saw it as a source of instability and actually, for a short moment, thought it might be something they should try to solve. At least, that's how our corporate media spun it for us. This year, nary a peep out of them about income inequality. No, this year was all fearmongering over the US budget deficit and the European debt crisis.
Donohue on deficits and cuts
Ali Velshi spoke to US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue on Friday about his solutions to the deficit problem. After the requisite hand-wringing about unemployment rates in Europe which have come about largely because the billionaires forced austerity on Greece, Spain and Italy, Donohue turned to the United States budget deficit, where he drew a distinction between European austerity and American austerity measures.
Donohue explained that American austerity measures involve "the spending that is automatic and that is entitlements -- Social Security a little bit, but primarily
Is Donohue suggesting that on that basis, it's not really austerity because it's cuts to necessities, so people will pay with or without the social safety net. Really?
We all know better, and we also know that health care spending has decreased during this recession. Not because costs have decreased, but because people are foregoing health care in order to save money. So sure, billionaires, take aim at the two government programs reaching the most people and doing the most good. That makes a ton of sense, right?
Donohue insists that longer life expectancies require lawmakers to "turn the curve down." I will let you speculate on how cutting Medicare might affect life expectancies, and whether that's what Donohue means by turning the curve down.
Keep in mind, this comes from a guy who was paid nearly $5 million dollars in salary in 2010 from a trade organization that spends millions to elect wingnuts to Congress. What the heck does he know about what that "small" Social Security cut and larger Medicare cut would do to anyone?
Donohue: Fracking is our future
All is not lost, peasants. Tom Donohue has the answer to our economic woes. All we need to do, according to the God of Commerce, is open federal lands and frack the hell out of them. Really. Here is his claim, verbatim:
Fracking, for example, has created 1.75 million
jobs inless than two years. There's billions and billions of dollars going to the states and the federal coffers. We have more energy than anybody in the world and, if we, in an environmentally friendly way, acquire it, go on the federal lands, do it in the right way, we'll get that extra piece of cash and bring manufacturing and jobsback to the United States or create them in the United States because of our energy.
In laymen's English, Donohue's constituents -- the Kochs, the Hunts, and other Texas oil barons -- see the answer to our economic woes as being pretty simple. Sell federal lands to them, let them frack the heck out of it (in an environmentally friendly way, of course -- cough), and there will be more jobs than the eye can see!
Speaking strictly for me, I'd prefer to leave my children and grandchildren with pristine, unpolluted, unmarred federal lands and find a different way to build the economy, but Donohue does reveal the center of the conflict between the Obama administration and the robber oil barons of the 21st century. Earlier in the interview, Donohue whined that the president was going to tackle climate change using his regulatory authority specifically with regard to the EPA and said the US Chamber was going to have to "work on that."
Oil oligarchs are struggling to remain relevant even as the rest of the world realizes oil dependency is a national security and economic danger we must mitigate, not celebrate. Donohue is simply the oligarchs' public relations mouthpiece.
Perhaps the Chamber minions in the House could pass a few more bills abolishing the EPA? That might work. Or not.
I trust that this year's billionaire boys' concerns will not be overlooked like last year's were. After all, income inequality is only a problem for as long as the minions cry out about it. Deficits and debt, on the other hand, are a real opportunity for wealth building at the expense of the peasants who were in the streets not that long before.
This is why I loathe Davos and all of the breathless celebrity reporting around it. The financial reporters practically scream like teenagers whenever a billionaire breathes, much less says anything substantive. Davos and the coverage surrounding it are meant to remind everyone that we serve at the pleasure of the oligarchs.
Transcript follows below the fold, courtesy of CNN:
GeneralShut the ChamberShut the ChamberShut the Chamber
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Tom, so much has happened with you in the last few years. You have been a force to reckon with for this administration and, in fact, you sort of went down some paths to not see them re-elected.
They got re-elected. What's your relationship with the president and the administration going to be?
TOM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT & CEO, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: First, we have nothing to do with presidential elections. We, of course, involve ourselves in senatorial and congressional elections and other.
DONOHUE: Our relationship with the White House is very broad. We have helped them on many issues. We have opposed them on issues.
We work closely with treasury and OMB and others and, from time to time, with people directly in the White ...
VELSHI: But would you say it's good?
DONOHUE: I'd say I have to deal with the White House on behalf of the American business community. They have to deal with us.
VELSHI: You've taken sort of harder political positions in the last few years. Let's talk about one of them.
You didn't really like the climate change stuff that the administration was up to. They may go into that again in the second term. It's probably not the highest priority, but they may go down that road.
DONOHUE: I think it is a high priority. It was the first thing the president said when he did his inaugural address and he isn't going to go to the Congress to do it. He's going to do it on a regulatory basis.
And, if you look what he's brought out of the EPA before, he can do a lot more going forward and we're all going to have to work on that.
VELSHI: All right, let's talk about spending cuts. One of the things you would like to see is deficits getting under control, spending cuts.
Here we are in Europe where the austerity of the sort that they imposed is not certainly in the short-term working. We've just seen new unemployment numbers out of Spain and Portugal, Spain at 26 percent, youth unemployment at 60 percent.
We've gotten to the point where we're lapping ourselves in Europe because so many people are unemployed that the idea of organic growth anytime in the next five years is impossible to see.
How do we manage that in the United States? How do we manage a cut in spending that doesn't send us into a downward growth spiral?
DONOHUE: It is where you cut the spending. And you're absolutely right the way you evaluated the trouble in Europe and that's a problem for us because they're our largest export partner.
But the spending that we want to adjust is the spending that is automatic and that is entitlements -- Social Security a little bit, but primarily Medicare -- and it goes up, up, up.
I'm the problem. It's people living much longer than anybody ever thought. You don't have to cut it. You have to turn the curve down. You have to make adjustments.
If you do it, A, you'll get some benefit in budgets. You'll get a lot of benefit in debt.
VELSHI: We got waylaid a little bit in the last four years, talking about government waste and fraud and stuff like that. In the long- term, that's not the stuff that moves the needle.
DONOHUE: No. We've ...
VELSHI: That's what you're talking about is what we have to fix.
DONOHUE: It is entitlements. We have to fix Social Security because for years we've been spending the surplus. Now, we're having to borrow money to pay Social Security.
Medicare, we borrow three out of every four dollars and have from the beginning that we spent. We have to fix it.
VELSHI: What is your recommendation for the process of how we fix this? We have the math. It is actuarial. We know how to do it, but we can't get the -- we can't get it done.
DONOHUE: Well, I've got a process different than some people do. We have been talking about fixing this in two buckets. One bucket is reducing costs and the other bucket is increasing taxes.
If you think you can get this all done, to the amount we have to do with, let's say, a 10-year program, you're going to have to dig very deep. We need a third bucket and it is sitting right there and we should use it. It's energy.
Fracking, for example, has created 1.75 million jobs in less than two years. There's billions and billions of dollars going to the states and the federal coffers. We have more energy than anybody in the world and, if we, in an environmentally friendly way, acquire it, go on the federal lands, do it in the right way, we'll get that extra piece of cash and bring manufacturing and jobs back to the United States or create them in the United States because of our energy.
VELSHI: The last four years of the Obama presidency was marred by not great relationships between the business community and the administration.
You are one of the key faces of the business community. Have you reached out to the president or has he reached out to you since his election to say, let's make this four years look very different?
DONOHUE: Just remember, my job's to represent the business people ...
DONOHUE: He's the president of the United States. We deal with each other when we should and when we need to and sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree.
VELSHI: But do you have a good relationship with him? Would you like a better relationship with him?
DONOHUE: Oh, I would like to have a more regular relationship with him, but we're doing just fine.