Weekly Audit: It's a recession, stupid (and what that means)

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium MediaWire blogger

The gurus at the National Bureau of Economic Research have finally acknowledged the obvious: the U.S. economy is in a recession, and has been since December 2007. With Wall Street still on life support and unemployment statistics reaching levels unseen since the heyday of Ronald Reagan, the news was far from shocking, as Truthdig's Ear to the Ground notes, but still enough to help push the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 700 points on Monday.

More frightening than the belated use of the r-word-- Kevin Drum of Mother Jones called the December start-date all the way back in February in a piece for the Washington Monthly-- is the fact that drastic government action to right the nation's faltering economic ship does not appear to be working. The current crisis has delivered a blow not just to investors and homeowners, but to the work of economist Milton Friedman, a thinker regarded with an almost sacred status in conservative circles. Over at Salon.com, Andrew Leonard highlights a New York Times column by economist Paul Krugman on how Friedman's monetarist economic theory has taken a hit over the past year. Friedman's doctrine calls for restricting government relief in times of economic strain to the arena of monetary policy--that is, central banks should increase the supply of money in the economy, but governments should not directly undertake spending initiatives to boost demand.

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Weekly Pulse: Pro-Choice Cabinet Picks Boon for Health At Home and Abroad

By Lindsay Beyerstein, MediaWire blogger

It's finally official: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

Some observers thought Clinton was a curious pick because she made a point of differentiating her foreign policy views from Obama's during the Democratic primary.

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Arranging Mr. Geithner's Priorities

by Zach Carter, MediaWire Blogger

President-elect Barack Obama announced his economic transition team yesterday--and we'll get to that--but first let's take a look at the top economic stories from the week that you might not have heard--but need to know.

With so many recent headlines detailing the government's policy position on some of the nation's largest corporations, it's important to remember that economic policy ought to include people living at the other end of the economic spectrum.

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The Secretary and the Czar: Obama Bets Big on Daschle for Healthcare

By Lindsay Beyerstein, MediaWire blogger

It's official, former Sen. Tom Daschle will be Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle will also serve as Health Czar, which means he will be in charge of developing Obama's healthcare program in addition to running HHS.

Ezra Klein writes in the Prospect: "This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don't tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That's not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress."

Ezra argues that Obama has learned the lessons of Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful attempt to reform healthcare in 1994. Ezra's view, the Clinton plan failed because its architects were so focused on crafting the perfect policy that they neglected to figure out how they were going to sell their plan politically.

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Healthcare: Out with the Old, In With the New

by Lindsay Beyerstein, MediaWire blogger.

Because if it bleeds, it leads... Sarah van Schagen rates the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products for Grist.

In all seriousness, this has been a very exciting week in healthcare news. The Bush administration is racing to take away as many reproductive rights as it can before leaving office. The Democrats in Congress are taking the lead on healthcare reform by writing up their own proposal before president Obama takes the Oath of Office.

Last week, Sen. Max Baucus unveiled a detailed proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans. Brian Cook has a roundup of reactions.

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Botching the Bailout

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium MediaWire Blogger

The Bush administration is squandering hundreds of billions of dollars on incompetence again.

In a House Domestic Policy Subcommittee hearing on Friday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, took Interim Assistant Treasury Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari (read: bailout chief) to task over the Treasury's decision to spend every cent of the first $350 billion in bailout funds buying up preferred stock in Wall Street icons and other banks, while allowing troubled borrowers to fend for themselves.

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Envisioning Obama's Healthcare Agenda

By Lindsay Beyerstein, The Media Consortium

Obama's healthcare agenda has been the subject of much discussion in progressive media circles this week.

We know that healthcare will be one of the top priorities for the Obama administration. The candidate put it third in line after the economy and energy independence.

As Sara Robinson of the Campaign for America's Future notes in AlterNet, Americans support the idea of a single-payer healthcare system by an astonishing 2-1 margin. So much for the myth that America is a center-right country.

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Envisioning Obama's Healthcare Agenda

Obama's healthcare agnda has been the subject of much discussion in progressive media circles this week.

We know that healthcare will be one of the top priorities for the Obama administration. The candidate put it third in line after the economy and energy independence.

As Sara Robinson of the Campaign for America's Future notes in AlterNet, Americans support the idea of a single-payer healthcare system by an astonishing 2-1 margin. So much for the myth that America is a center-right country.

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Kicking the Wall Street Habit

By Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger

As Barack Obama readies himself to lead the United States through what appears to be a scathing recession, he faces a choice between feeding the political sphere's Wall Street addiction and investing in economic progress. Two key former Clinton cabinet officials could determine which course he takes.

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Kicking the Wall Street Habit

by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire blogger

As Barack Obama readies himself to lead the United States through what appears to be a scathing recession, he faces a choice between feeding the political sphere's Wall Street addiction and investing in economic progress. Two key former Clinton cabinet officials could determine which course he takes.

 It was more than a little startling to hear a U.S. leader who sounded like (gasp!) an economist at the president-elect's first press conference last week, after years of Bush speeches that treated economic policy as a realm defined exclusively by tax cuts and bailouts. But without policy specifics, we still do not know which voices of the many men and women flanking Obama at the event will impact the next administration's economic platform. Mother Jonesnotes that several of the names included on the list of Obama's economic advisers represent schools of thought that brought us directly to the current crisis. Two of the alleged experts, former Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, signed off on major financial deregulatory moves in the latter half of the Clinton years. The two sided often with former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on policies that included a refusal to place government oversight on the credit derivatives market, which eventually ballooned into the $60 trillion quagmire that destroyed AIG in September (who got another $40 billion from taxpayers on Monday).  

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