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Revolving Door: From Top Futures Regulator to Top Futures Lobbyist

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
While America focused on New Hampshire, a classic example of revolving-door politics took place in Washington, going almost completely unnoticed. It’s a move that ranks up there with the hire of Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin to head the pharmaceutical lobbying conglomerate PhRMA — at a salary of over $2 million a year — immediately after Tauzin helped ram through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, a huge handout to the pharmaceutical industry.

Walter Lukken returns to the witness table before the start of the Senate Appropriations Committee Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee joint hearing. (Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images) In this case, the hire involves Walter Lukken, who toward the end of the Bush years was the acting head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. As the chief regulator of the commodities markets, it was Lukken’s job to spot and combat speculative abuses and manipulations that might have led to artificial price hikes and other disruptions.

In 2008, the last full year of his tenure, Lukken presided over some of the worst chaos in the commodities markets in recent history, with major disruptions in the markets for food products like wheat, cotton, soybeans, and rice, and energy commodities like oil.

Most notoriously, 2008 saw a historic spike in the price of oil futures, an enormously destructive speculative bubble that peaked in July of that year at the lunatic high price of $146 per barrel (Goldman, Sachs at the height of the mania was telling investors oil might go to $200 a barrel).

It was Lukken’s job to spot the speculative abuses leading to disruptions like that bubble, but he didn’t do it. Instead, he repeatedly insisted that there was nothing untoward going on, most notoriously through testimony before the House and the Senate at the height of the oil boom.

© 2012 Rolling Stone
(12 January 2012)

Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor

Rich Morin, Pew Research Center
The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.

Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense. According to the new survey, three-in-ten Americans (30%) say there are “very strong conflicts” between poor people and rich people. That is double the proportion that offered a similar view in July 2009 and the largest share expressing this opinion since the question was first asked in 1987.

As a result, in the public’s evaluations of divisions within American society, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old. Back in 2009, more survey respondents said there were strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than said the same about the rich and the poor.1

… Perceptions of the Wealthy

While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.

… Other Demographic Differences

Young people ages 18 to 34—the demographic group most closely associated with the Occupy movement—is more likely than those 35 or older to see “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor. According to the survey, more than seven-in-ten (71%) of these young adults say there are major disagreements between the most and least affluent, a 17 percentage point increase since 2o09.

Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64—the mothers and fathers of the Occupy generation—are nearly as likely to say there are serious conflicts between the upper and lower classes; fully two-thirds (67%) say this, a 22-point increase in the past two years. Among those ages 35 to 49, more than six-in-ten (64%) see serious class conflicts.

While older adults are the least likely to see serious disagreements between the classes, the proportion who express this view increased from 36% two years ago to 55% in the current survey.

Women are more likely than men to say there are serious disagreements between the rich and poor (71% vs. 60%). In 2009, about half of all women (51%) and 43% of men said there was strong conflict between the classes.

… The Politics of Class Conflict

Democrats and political liberals are far more likely than Republicans or conservatives to say there are major conflicts between rich people and poor people.

At the same time, in just two years the perceptions of class conflict have increased significantly among members of both political parties as well as among self-described independents, conservatives, liberals and moderates.

The result is that majorities of each political party and ideological point of view now agree that serious disputes exist between Americans on the top and bottom of the income ladder.
(11 January 2012)

Bill Moyers: Back With a New Series

Bill Moyers, Truthout
Dear Friends,

You already may have heard that I’d be coming back in January with a new series on the public television station nearest you. But you may not have heard exactly why. It’s not just that I lack retirement skills, as my wife and co-editor, Judith, keeps reminding me. Or that the squeaky rocking chair on the front porch got on my nerves. I’m coming back because in tumultuous times like these I relish the company of people who try to make sense of the tumult. These are the people I’ll bring to our new broadcast, Moyers & Company.

Journalism has long been for me a continuing course in adult education. Given what’s happening in this country, it’s time to sign up for more classes. The lack of civility and common sense that has paralyzed our democracy, the vast economic and social inequality that sends both left and right raging into the streets, the corrosive influence of money in politics – we’re in a tailspin with little hope for a course correction from our elected leadership or corporate-dominated media. The need for voices of reason, simple and eloquent, has rarely been stronger.

Those voices, whether they be from artist or social critic, philosopher or poet, historian or physicist, can bring us truth, inspiration, even hope. So I’ll be reaching out in this new series to people engaged in the trials and errors of democracy, who have tested their ideas against experience, and who know that the health of our body politic is everybody’s business. They help us see the world anew, and to make informed choices.

This will be a political series, but not a partisan one. In the conversation of democracy, everyone’s invited. That means you, too. You’re welcome to share opinions in the marketplace of ideas we’ll be offering with our all-new website, Our aim is dialogue, not diatribe, and we want you in it.

So join us – on Moyers & Company. (Truth is, I never really cared for that rocking chair.)

Yours Truly,

Bill Moyers

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
(11 January 2012)

Bill Moyers: “They are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America.”

OWS News
Excerpt From Bill Moyers’ speech at Public Citizen’s 40th Anniversary:

“Barack Obama criticizes bankers as ‘fat cats’, then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant…. The President has raised more money from banks, hedge funds, and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Let’s name it for what it is… Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy – fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano. Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is occupied is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking: ‘Why are you here?’ But it’s as clear as the crash of 2008. They are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America.”

(Video of full speech.)

(November 4, 2011)
Suggested by EB contributor Luane.