James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 12:47 P.M. EDT MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for being here. Just a quick thing I want to mention at the top, if I may. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the full Senate two more important pieces of the President's plan to reduce gun violence. Providing districts with resources to make their schools safer and closing loopholes that allow felons, the mentally ill and others who should not have guns to avoid background checks are important measures that will help save lives. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this and on the other important pieces of legislation that are part of the President's comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. And with that, I'll go to your questions. Darlene. Q Thank you, Jay. I wanted to start off by objecting to the decision this morning to limit the President's remarks to just the print pooler and not a broader pool. MR. CARNEY: I take your objection. I think it was live-streamed, so everyone in America with electricity and a computer could see it today. Q That's true, but -- Q If it's live-streamed on whitehouse.gov, we should allow the TV cameras in as well. MR. CARNEY: I take your objection. Q And we also don't want to see a situation where live-streaming sort of takes the place of us actually being in where the President is -- MR. CARNEY: Well, you know that's certainly not the case. But I appreciate the point. Q Jay, what was the reason for it today? MR. CARNEY: Again, we made a decision based on the fact that it was live-streamed. There's a print pooler there -- or was there -- and it was available for everyone to see. Q But many events have been live-streamed and you've let the pool in and any other reporters with hard passes in. Why the change this time? MR. CARNEY: I think it was just because of the logistics of this, and the fact that it was live-streamed and the print pooler was sent. I would not read anything bigger than the decision today into today's decision. Q On the gun vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, how will -- will that factor into the President's discussions today with the Senate Democrats? MR. CARNEY: I think it's safe to say that when the President meets with Senate Democrats, as he will in a little bit, he will discuss an array of topics. I think he will commend the Senate Democrats for their focus and persistence in making sure that the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized, and the President was very glad to be able to sign that. He will focus on the work that Senate Democrats have done with Senate Republicans to advance bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. He will, I'm sure, as you note, Darlene, talk about the progress that Senate Democrats have made towards the goal of bipartisan measures to reduce gun violence in America. And he will certainly discuss -- well, as I mentioned yesterday, he may bring up concerns he has about the unnecessary delays that have confronted our nominations, the historic delays. Just yesterday, I believe, the Senate finally confirmed someone to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals who was filibustered for something like 464 days. So you would think there must have been something disturbing about his nomination, that there must have been great opposition to it. Instead, he was voted and confirmed 91-0. That I think is emblematic of a problem that we have in the confirmation process. He will also, of course, talk about budget and fiscal issues, the work that Senator Murray is doing on a budget for the Senate and the work that he is engaged in, discussing with lawmakers of both parties to try to find common ground on these issues -- on the need to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, the need to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, to move forward with measures to reduce gun violence, to take action to ensure that we're investing in education and infrastructure and innovation -- the areas that will allow our economy to grow and create jobs in the future. There's a big agenda here and the American people want action on all of that. So those will likely be the subjects. Q So the Ryan budget, is there anything in there that you can provide that you would find positive about it, that might prompt some breakthrough on a major deficit reduction deal? MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President had lunch with Chairman Ryan last week, as well as Congressman Van Hollen. He is engaging with lawmakers of both parties and has, notably, had the dinner with Senate Republicans. But the engagement is broader and deeper and continues. We put out a statement today -- I put out a statement about our view of the Ryan budget. And the President certainly believes that Congressman Ryan is sincere in what he believes his budget represents in terms of policy priorities, and he commends Congressman Ryan for the effort, but there is no question that the Ryan budget, again, represents a series of policy choices that this President profoundly disagrees with. As I noted in my statement, it aims to reduce the deficit, but the math doesn’t add up. And you have a situation where you either have to -- as we saw last year when there was a proposal put forward by Congressman Ryan’s running mate, in order to lower the rates the way that he proposes, there is no way to do that in a revenue-neutral way without raising taxes substantially on middle-class families. There is simply no way. Outside economists made that clear last year. The problem is more severe with this budget, because the fact is that Chairman Ryan takes as his baseline the increase in rates for the wealthiest Americans that was achieved through the fiscal cliff compromise and instead of going from -- therefore going from 35 percent down to 28 percent, which is what Governor Romney proposed in his tax reform plan that was untenable and would have resulted in massive tax hikes for the middle class, Chairman Ryan would make that cut from 39.6 to 25 percent and the result would be even more punishing for middle-class Americans. On the other side, again, I guess it’s -- we look at the Ryan budget as a perfect example of why balance is so necessary, because this is the alternative to balance. It results in unfair tax hikes on middle-class Americans and it results in an undue burden on middle-class Americans through the cuts envisioned either on education, or investments in infrastructure, and elsewhere -- and innovation -- and those cuts, of course, harm our future long term, our future growth. But then on the entitlement side, voucherizing Medicare is an option the public I think overwhelmingly rejects -- rejected last year, rejected the year before, does not believe is good policy. But beyond public disapproval, it does nothing to deal with the fundamental problem here, which is rising health care costs. It actually exacerbates that problem, but shifts the burden from the Medicare program to seniors, asks them to pay the difference. And that doesn't, obviously, keep true to the promise of the guarantee that the Medicare program represents. So we see a lot of differences. There is no question. But the President does believe that there is a consensus in America about the need for a balanced approach. There is a consensus, a majority -- certainly a consensus in the Senate about the need for a balanced approach. So Senate Democrats, House Democrats, the President, the public, and a lot of Senate Republicans have expressed interest in a balanced approach. So for that reason, the President believes there is cause to continue the effort to try to find common ground and compromise. Q You’ve cited a number of things that the President will say today up on the Hill. Is he going up there to give a speech, or is it a conversation? MR. CARNEY: I think it’s a conversation, but he’ll certainly have some things to say at the top. And he’ll interact with members, as he will, I believe, in his other meetings with both Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate and the House. Yes, Jim. Q Jay, this morning the National Journal quoted a senior administration official who spoke anonymously and said about the President’s trips to the Hill and this outreach to Republicans, “This is a joke. We’re wasting the President’s time and hours. I hope you all (in the media) are happy because we’re doing it for you.” Is this a show? Does the President feel this is a joke? MR. CARNEY: I saw that story, Jim, and I appreciate the question because I have no idea who said that, but I can tell you that opinion has never been voiced in my presence, in the President’s presence, in the West Wing. It does not represent the President’s view. It does not represent the White House’s view, and it does not represent the administration’s view. Q And did you talk to the President personally about this to make sure that this was not his view? MR. CARNEY: I talk to the President every day about this very issue, and the answer is he believes strongly that it is important to engage with lawmakers of both parties in order to find common ground so that we can move forward not just on our budget issues, but on the other issues that confront us. And there is great opportunity to do that. We have seen progress on immigration reform. We have seen progress, as I mentioned at the top, in the Congress, in the Senate on efforts to reduce gun violence. We need to make progress on enhancing our energy independence. We need to make progress on rebuilding our infrastructure, because it puts people to work now and it makes us more competitive economically in the future. And there is reason to believe that we can do that. We’re not naïve. There are disagreements and obstacles. But the President is at the head of this effort because he believes deeply in it. And that comment again, I’m not sure who said it, I have no idea, but it does not represent in any way the President’s view or the views of this White House. Q And about the Ryan budget, it does away with the President’s signature legislative achievement, health care reform. And I was just curious -- does the President view or does the White House view that as bargaining in good faith? MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think the President believes that Chairman Ryan is sincere in his views. I think many -- Q Some people are calling it delusional. Is that a word you’d use? MR. CARNEY: I think it has been -- the House Republicans have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare. That seems at some point to be time not well spent. And the President believes it’s important to expand health insurance coverage to the millions of Americans who will be covered because of the Affordable Care Act. And we have been moving forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, working with states around the country on establishment of exchanges, working with states around the country on the expansion of Medicaid coverage, and working with governors of both parties. As you know, there has been some news in that regard just recently. So again, we have profound differences at a substantive level with the budget proposed by Chairman Ryan. It is in many ways a reiteration of his proposals of the past. The biggest difference is that he’s able to take advantage of -- for baseline purposes and at least deficit reduction on paper -- the revenue increases that he opposed and the President put forward and the Medicare savings that he opposed and the President put forward. But what it doesn’t do is plausibly deal with deficit reduction in a way -- I mean, there’s a choice here. Either you reduce the deficit or balance the budget, as he says, by having to raise taxes on the middle class and voucherizing Medicare and all the other deep cuts and unnecessary programmatic changes that are included in there, or you don’t actually reach deficit reduction, and there’s no -- or both, you do both -- and you still stick it to the middle class. So on the issue of the tax reform, we did go through this last year. And it was widely viewed when it was proposed by Governor Romney as untenable because you simply can’t find $5 trillion in loopholes and deductions only from the wealthy and well-connected through tax reform to make it revenue neutral, to achieve the kind of tax rate reduction that Chairman Ryan and Governor Romney envisioned last year with Chairman Ryan, and Chairman Ryan envisions this year. It’s just not mathematically possible. So the result is that the middle class ends up paying, and the middle class ends up paying for tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. I mean, after all, those in the top bracket would see something like a 37 percent pay cut -- I mean tax cut, a 37 percent tax cut, from 39.6 to 25 percent. That’s pretty hefty. And it doesn’t reflect the principle that the President has put forward that we need to ask the wealthy to contribute to deficit reduction. And that’s a position that the public widely supports. Jon. Q You’ve talked about the need for balance many times, and pointed out the President has put out some entitlement reforms and that’s a critical part of balance. Do you expect -- do you hope that when the Senate Democrats release their budget tomorrow, that it has entitlement reforms along the lines of what the President has proposed? MR. CARNEY: Well, I will wait for the budget to be put forward and Senator Murray to do that. We do expect it to be balanced, to have the principle of balance inherent in its proposals. If it’s not -- and I don’t expect it will be -- in agreement on every item of the President’s proposal, but it will be consistent with the President’s balanced approach, we expect. Q But will it fall short if it doesn’t have entitlement reforms, if it doesn’t have the kind of things the President has put out there? MR. CARNEY: Again, I haven’t seen it yet and I would wait until it’s put forward. But I would simply say that it will be consistent in terms of balance, we expect. That is where it would strongly differentiate -- be differentiated from the House Republican budget. And the President commends Senate Democrats for pursuing a budget that includes the balance that he believes is necessary, the public believes is necessary, the Bowles-Simpson commission has long since made clear is necessary. And so we look forward to working with Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans and everyone on Capitol Hill, including House Republicans and House Democrats, in hopes of achieving a compromise that achieves -- that has within it the balance that is essential. Because that’s what’s so instructive about the budget proposal from Chairman Ryan, is that it really does make the case for balance, because if you don’t have balance, if instead of asking the wealthiest to contribute to deficit reduction, you say we’d like to give the wealthiest a huge tax cut, the result is that everybody else -- the burden is doubled or tripled on everyone else. And that just doesn’t seem fair. And it’s also not good economics. Q Now, when you say balance, you don’t mean balanced. I mean, they’re not going to -- MR. CARNEY: I mean a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes asking everyone to pay their share. Q But it won’t be a balanced budget, right? MR. CARNEY: No, what the President’s budget proposal will do, as his previous proposals have done, is achieve the economically important goal of bringing our debt-to-GDP down below 3 percent. That was the target set under the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson commission, the President’s fiscal commission. It is the target widely recognized by economists as a necessary goal when we talk about getting our fiscal house in order. And it is a goal that’s achievable in a way that also allows other goals to be achieved -- like investing in our economy so that it grows; like building roads and bridges so that we’re competitive with Europe and China and India; and investing in education so your children and mine are getting the jobs that pay the best and they’re getting those jobs here in the United States in 25 and 30 years. That’s why the President has never viewed budget proposals as -- or proposals in negotiations for deficit reduction as having as their only goal deficit reduction. Deficit reduction is an absolutely important goal, and it is important to bring our deficits down and to reduce our debt-to-GDP. But they are part of -- those goals are part of the broader purpose here, which is to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. And if you achieve one without the other two, you have not done right by the middle class of the country, and you probably have undermined the future economy of the United States. So that’s why the President’s focus has been on balance. On the important goal of deficit reduction, he has signed into law, as you know, Jon, $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction thus far, and he looks forward to working with Congress to bring that total to beyond $4 trillion, which, in turn, if done in a balanced way, will achieve the goals that I just laid out. Major. Q Let me follow up on Jonathan. Would the President be disappointed if Senate Democrats did not include one of the reforms that you often talk about from this very podium, on entitlements? Superlative CPI or chained CPI? MR. CARNEY: The President has a proposal that he made to the Speaker of the House -- Q If no one endorses it in your party does it also suggest it has a political -- a radioactivity to it that people are afraid to touch? MR. CARNEY: I think that the question supports what I’ve been saying all along, which is that the President’s proposal includes items in it that are very tough choices for Democrats to go along with, A; B, that stands in stark contrast to proposals in a Republican budget that makes a tough choice of voucherizing Medicare while giving tax cuts to the wealthy. Q But if nobody is willing to vote for that, what’s the point of it? MR. CARNEY: First of all, I think you’re talking about a process that has the Senate putting forward a budget and the House putting forward a budget, and the President putting forward a budget. And hopefully through regular order, which leaders of both parties have said they would like to see, and which the President would like to see, we will see a compromise that results in a balanced package of deficit reduction that allows the economy to grow and to continue to create jobs. And that will include tough choices for Democrats on the entitlement side, and tough choices for Republicans on the revenue side. Q So you recruit a Democrat to come up with an amendment on the CPI? MR. CARNEY: You’re getting down into the weeds of process. You and I both covered the Hill and that’s fun stuff, but the President is looking at a higher objective here, which is to work together with lawmakers of both parties to find that common ground and compromise that is essential if we’re going to move forward in a way that helps our economy, reduces our deficit, protects seniors, strengthens the middle class. Q In the preamble to his budget, Paul Ryan says it is economically essential to get to balance. Does the White House believe that balance, meaning zero, no deficit, is economically irrelevant? MR. CARNEY: No. We believe that the economically important goal, as economists have said repeatedly -- outside independent economists, as well as the much venerated Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson commission -- is achieving the goal of reducing our debt-to-GDP ratio to below 3 percent. And the President’s proposals do that. The President’s budget will do that. The goal of balance is worthy and it should be pursued, but it should not be pursued if it is done in a way that does harm to the economy, does harm to senior citizens, does harm to the middle class, and gives short-term benefits to the wealthy -- because, in the end, everybody suffers if the American economy is weaker because of an implementation of a budget proposal that's so profoundly unbalanced that it does not allow for the growth and expansion of the middle class. Q You made reference a moment ago to Ryan's budget. Are you saying he is tacitly admitting in that budget without saying so publicly that the tax increase and the revenue from the health care law make his job easier? MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn't put words into his mouth. But it's my understanding that he includes as part of his baseline the revenue achieved through the fiscal cliff deal, the ATRA, and that means the revenue achieved from raising the rates on the wealthiest individuals that the President fought for. And it achieves the savings in the Affordable Care Act that the President put forward, the Medicare savings -- getting rid of waste fraud and abuse and reducing payments to insurance companies, subsidies to insurance companies and the like. Those are savings that of course were highlighted in the Republican campaign against the President last year and criticized greatly, but they are included in the budget. Q On balance, the President talks a lot about everyone paying their fair share. The IRS has a report out claiming that 312,000 federal employees owe over $3 billion in federal taxes. And that includes, I believe, 40 employees of the Executive Office of the President. Is the President going to make sure everybody here, everybody in the federal government, is paying their fair share of taxes? MR. CARNEY: Well, the President believes that everybody ought to pay their taxes. And for details on the report, I would refer you to the IRS. But absolutely the President believes everybody ought to pay their taxes. And I believe the IRS is the place to go for more specifics. Q In terms of the Ryan budget, how can you attack the Ryan budget when you are standing here without an Obama budget? MR. CARNEY: Well, Ed, I appreciate the question. The President will be putting forward a budget -- Q When? MR. CARNEY: -- in the next several weeks, probably the week of April 8th, I would expect. Q Let me write that down. Q Is that new? Did you make news? I think you did. MR. CARNEY: But as you know, Ed, the President has put forward a proposal that will be reflected in his budget and the principles will be reflected in his budget. And that proposal, as you know, because you covered it, that he made to the Speaker of the House demonstrated his willingness to find common ground with the Republicans on both revenue and entitlement cuts, demonstrated his seriousness of purpose, demonstrated his belief that balances is essential in our pursuit of deficit reduction. And that offer has been on the table ever since he made it to the Speaker. And sadly, the Speaker has not taken it up. In fact, he declared he would never negotiate with the President again, which was a rather stark proclamation. Q I'm glad you mentioned the President's proposal. It is on the White House website, as you said many times. I printed it out to make sure I have it. Last question on this -- it says, for example, this is the President's proposal to Speaker Boehner, $100 billion in cuts to defense discretionary spending. As you understand, that's not really a budget, though, because we don't know where the $100 billion in cuts will be. Which programs of the Defense Department does he want to cut specifically? MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to provide the budget in advance, but we have provided -- Q The other budgets are being put on the table this week. MR. CARNEY: Have you looked at the Ryan budget? Can you find a single item in tax reform, a single loophole closed to achieve $5 trillion -- $5 trillion! That's a lot of money. Not one. I would challenge you to find any entitlement reform in the Ryan budget beyond the adoption of the President's -- Q We will invite Paul Ryan to come here and defend his plan. However, the President's plan is -- MR. CARNEY: There is ample detail in the President's previous budget, which goes into his defense -- the levels he calls for, for defense spending that are consistent with the national security plan laid out by his national security plan laid out by his national security team. And the budget the President puts forward will have the detail that presidential budgets tend to have, which are, unfortunately, lacking in the House Republican budget. Yes, Kristen. Q Jay, thanks. The Ryan budget also calls for moving forward with construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Given that the State Department has said that the pipeline won’t have a serious impact on the environment, will the President now give that project the green light? MR. CARNEY: I have no updates for you on that. That's obviously an assessment that is housed at the State Department. There are a series of steps that are taken, as I understand it, by the State Department. The assessment that you’ve mentioned is one of those. But that process is ongoing, in keeping with years of tradition, when we talk about trans-border pipelines, as this one is. And when there is an announcement to make we’ll be ready to announce it. Q Well, taking it another way, is this a potential area of common ground, given the State Department’s assessment? MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I would set aside -- I have nothing to say to project about an announcement that is not ready to be made and that is part of a process that is undertaken at the State Department. I will make the point that since this President came into office, we have dramatically increased our domestic energy production, we have dramatically reduced our imports of foreign oil, and we have dramatically expanded the production of renewable energy and investments in clean energy technology, all of which represent the President’s all-of-the-above energy approach -- an approach that will allow us to become increasingly energy independent, will assist in the effort to create high-paying, quality jobs in cutting-edge industries of the future in the United States, and that will allow us to in the future withstand the shocks caused by fluctuations in global energy prices, global oil prices. We are experiencing elevated prices right now, and this is another reminder of why we need to pursue the kind of comprehensive, all-of-the-above approach that the President has pursued and which has yielded results. He will continue to pursue that in his second term. Q And just to go back to the timing of the budget, which you’ve now confirmed will come out in April. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that the President’s plan to submit his budget in April would be like dropping a bomb on the legislative process. What’s your reaction and how does the President not in some way negatively impact the legislative process? MR. CARNEY: I have no doubt that anytime the President introduces his budget that perhaps Senator McConnell or some other Republican will say it was wildly inappropriate or inconvenient to do it that day or that week or that month. Let’s just stipulate that. When the President introduces his budget, it will be an important contribution to what we hope will be a process of regular order where a compromise is reached that embodies the principles of balance when it comes to deficit reduction that the President supports, that Senate Democrats support, House Democrats support, a lot of Senate Republicans support, the vast majority of the American people support, and that enables us to deal with these important issues even as we’re dealing with other challenges like comprehensive immigration reform, like reducing gun violence, like investing in education and innovation and infrastructure. Because our fiscal challenges are important and our budget priorities are very important, but we have other priorities, too, and the American people expect us to be working on all of them. Peter. Q Thank you, Jay. You mentioned the White House doesn’t believe that this sort of outreach is a waste of time. But we’ve heard the President talk about the limitations of personal diplomacy. He mentioned his golf game with Speaker Boehner and noting that a deal didn’t really come of that. So what is the White House view -- that personal diplomacy and engagement can be helpful in the legislative process, or is it that partisanship in Washington is just so deep-rooted that it’s really unrealistic to think that that kind of outreach can break through those barriers? MR. CARNEY: The President believes that personal engagement is important, that relationships are important, that conversation and discussion are important. And he is engaged in that process, as he was in a series of negotiations with Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell and others, and as he was throughout his first term on different issues. But he is engaged, as we’ve noted, in a sort of more intensified process of consultations with lawmakers -- Republican lawmakers as well as Democratic lawmakers -- because he believes that there are circumstances now, partly born of misfortune -- the decision to embrace the sequester by Republicans -- but circumstances that allow for the time and space, if you will, for serious conversation and debate within the regular order process to try to move forward on these budget issues, and to hopefully create an environment -- or improve the environment when it comes to bipartisan cooperation on these other issues. I think I noted yesterday that it is worth standing back and assessing the landscape here and acknowledging that despite our partisan differences there is important quality work being done by Republicans and Democrats together on some very important issues. And that extends beyond deficit reduction and budget issues into immigration reform and gun violence and other areas. So the President believes this is an important process and he has enjoyed his consultations thus far. He’s looking forward to his meetings with the conferences and caucuses this week on Capitol Hill, and that process will continue. Q We’ve been hearing from various sources, Jay, what the President has intended to be delivering in terms of his message to the leaders in the Middle East next week. On the flip side, what is the President looking forward to hearing from the leaders in Ramallah and in Amman and in Jerusalem in terms of their insight and their message to him? MR. CARNEY: Well, the President looks forward to all of his meetings on his trip. And I don't want to get ahead of it. I’m sure we will be doing, as we have traditionally, a background briefing prior to the trip to fill you in on more details of both the program and what we expect from the trip. But the President will hope to hear from the leaders he meets with assessments of all the issues that are top of the agenda when you consider Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and the leaders that he’ll be meeting with. But I don't have anything more specific for you than that. Q How will the President measure the success of his trip? MR. CARNEY: I think we’ve made clear that the President greatly looks forward to this visit, that he will be engaging with leaders on the range of issues of importance in the region and with the leaders specifically, but that we’re not laying out markers for success on the peace process or otherwise. These will all be part of important conversations that the President will be having. Mara and then Scott. Q You said earlier that the Ryan budget will result in tax hikes for middle-class Americans. He envisions a 25-percent top rate and a 10-percent rate. MR. CARNEY: Correct. Q So why -- where are the tax hikes? MR. CARNEY: Well, as you remember, I thank you for the question, I was probably using shorthand, and I shouldn’t have. Last year when Governor Romney put forward a proposal to reduce -- a tax reform proposal that would have cut rates not quite as far, but I believe the top rate to 28 percent and the other rate -- I forget, what -- Jon, do you remember? Anyway, two rates, but not quite as low as Chairman Ryan, and 28 was the top rate. There were assessments done by outside economists that made clear that the only way you could achieve the goal of that tax reform being revenue neutral -- lowering those rates so dramatically and somehow making it revenue neutral when you're making these massive tax cuts would be to, through tax reform, stick it to the middle class to the tune of more than $2,000, eliminating deductions and the like that middle-class Americans depend on, whether it’s deductions for health insurance or education or home ownership or -- Q So you’re saying their net taxes will be higher in the end? MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. There is no question about it. Absolutely. By a significant amount. When it was the Romney plan, it was $2,000 on estimate -- the Tax Policy Center, I believe, assessment. And since the gap is larger here, the reduction in the Ryan plan is from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, as opposed to 35 percent to 28 percent, that the hole that needs to be filled through middle-class tax hikes is even larger. Scott. Q I’m just curious about what specifically the President talks about when you say he talks to the Hill about energy independence. Is it spending more money on developing an American green economy? Is it other -- increasing natural gas exports? Can you be a little bit -- is it climate change-related? What exactly is he saying specifically? MR. CARNEY: Well, to torture you with a phrase, it’s all of the above. It’s that the President has embraced increased development of our traditional forms of energy. That includes our remarkable strides in development of natural gas, as well as increased development of oil. It includes investment in and development of renewable energy sources. It includes measures taken when it comes to the environmental side of it, the climate side of it. Important actions taken, most specifically the car rule, which will dramatically reduce -- or increase fuel efficiency and reduce consumption thereby. And that contributes in two ways. Obviously it contributes to our environmental health, but also reduces, again, our demand for fossil fuels, which reduces -- continues the reduction in our demand for foreign sources of oil. So this is an approach that the President really sees as comprehensive, and only through that comprehensive approach can we achieve the kind of independence from outside energy sources that we all believe, I believe, would be beneficial to our national and economic security. Q He’s talking to legislators. Is he talking about legislation to them as well as -- MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any proposals, legislative proposals to preview for you. The President believes that we can take steps to increase development of energy resources in the United States, both traditional and renewable, as well as take steps to enhance efficiency and improve the quality of our air. And that’s what he did in the first term, and he’ll continue to do that. Donovan. Q Thanks, Jay. At the risk of getting a little bit in the weeds, I want to ask a little bit more about the budget. How does the White House envision the process for reaching a fiscal deal? Leave it up to the committees in Congress and provide technical assistance? Or maybe have the President get directly involved? Like, how does this look? What does this look like? MR. CARNEY: Well, as I was saying earlier, leaders of both parties in both houses have expressed interest in returning to regular order. I know that’s shorthand, but for those who don’t understand the picture that I’m trying to paint here, we have been, as the President often notes, living in -- governing by crisis, lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis, often crises determined by fabricated deadlines around debt ceilings or fiscal cliffs or sequesters that have taken us out of the regular process, which is a budgetary process that has been the one that is traditionally pursued to set our budget priorities and allocate spending and decide what our revenue streams look like. And I think everybody in Washington -- there is a consensus -- and this was a topic of conversation at the dinner, as participants noted -- there is a growing consensus about the desire and need to return to normalcy, to regular order. And through that process, through a budget produced in the Senate and a budget produced and passed in the House, and the President’s budget, that we can come together and find some -- find agreement on a budget that, in the President’s view, hopefully will represent the will of the American people as reflected in data that we see every day, as reflected in the election. And that is for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that doesn’t, in the name of deficit reduction, slash our investments in education or in innovation or research. Because these are things -- this is eating your seed corn. Doing that makes the future less bright economically for the whole country. So we need to make wise choices when it comes to deficit reduction, and wise choices when it comes to spending cuts and spending investments. Q So just the shorthand, regular order, a return to normalcy -- that means basically -- MR. CARNEY: I thought I explained it with great detail. (Laughter.) But the President will be engaged in this process. The White House will be. The administration will be. But obviously, this is something that legislatively moves through Congress. And I want to say all this and make clear that I am not being naïve about the challenges that clearly remain. The President’s position is clear. The President has put forward proposals and will continue to put forward proposals that represent balance, that represent tough choices for him and for Democrats, that compromise on the issue of revenues, as he has done in the past, but achieve that balance because it’s necessary. He is engaging with Republican lawmakers, trying to find common ground around the idea that we can do entitlement reform and tax reform together in a balanced way, the way that the American people want. But it remains to be seen if the result of this embrace of regular order and embrace of common ground is an achievement that fits the bill here, which is a resolution, a budget that reduces the deficit in a balanced way, hits the target of $4 trillion-plus over 10 years in deficit reduction, allows for the investments that are necessary to keep our economy growing, protects middle-class Americans and seniors. We’ll see. We are mindful of the challenges, but we believe there can be and should be common ground and compromise. Yes. Q In the run-up to the President’s Middle East trip, he’s been meeting with American Jewish leaders and now Arab American leaders. But one of the participants in the Arab American group’s meeting said this is the first meeting of its kind that they’ve had with the President. Why has there not been one before this? MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure that’s the case, but I will take your question. The President has been engaged with leaders of different communities throughout his presidency, both in the first term and now in his second term. It’s entirely appropriate in advance of this trip to have these meetings, and they were both very productive meetings and helpful to the President, and hopefully helpful to those who participated in hearing the President’s views about the various issues that will be discussed on his trip. Q What did he hear that will help him on this trip? MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to read out a private meeting, but the President values greatly the insights provided by, in this case, both Jewish American leaders and Arab American leaders in these meetings, as he does appreciate the outside advice and observations that he receives on a variety of issues. April. Q Jay, has the President received a letter from CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge about the President’s lack of nominations of African Americans to Cabinet posts in his second term? MR. CARNEY: I believe we have received that letter, and I can tell you that the President is deeply committed to diversity in his Cabinet and to ensuring his administration reflects the breadth of our country. He believes that the best decisions are made when he is surrounded by people who share different perspectives, as we work toward improving our economy and building a strong middle class together. Q So does that mean that the President will in the next couple of weeks nominate an African American to a -- MR. CARNEY: I don't have any personnel announcements to make today. When the President is ready to make announcements, he will make them. Q Well, what has the President said about this? Because she has made it clear in her letter that many African Americans around the country are calling into the CBC offices very upset because they supported him overwhelmingly, and they have yet to see an African American nominated to a Cabinet post right now. MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't have any personnel announcements to make. There are obviously still appointments the President will be making. And I can tell you, as I made clear at the top, the President is committed to diversity. He believes that having a diverse Cabinet and a diverse set of advisors enhances the decision-making and deliberation process for him and for any President. And so he values it greatly and that's why he has pursued it both in his first term and continues to pursue it in his second term. Ann. Q Does the White House believe that the information that hackers claim they have put on the Internet is legitimate -- Mrs. Obama's social security number, some of her financial information, along with other officials including the FBI Director? MR. CARNEY: On this I have to refer you to the Secret Service. I just don't have anything for that on you -- I have no assessments to offer, just a reference to the Secret Service. Yes, Chris. Q I just want to follow up on April’s questioning there. There are new reports that the President is close to making his nominees for the Labor and Commerce Secretary. There was a lot of hope within the LGBT community that the President would take the opportunity with those vacancies to appoint the first-ever LGBT Cabinet member. But it looks like it's not going to happen now. And you just mentioned how the President values diversity, and I'm just wondering if that excludes LGBT people. Does the President not believe that sexual orientation and gender identity are elements of diversity that you want to see at the highest levels of the administration? MR. CARNEY: Again, Chris, I have no personnel announcements to make. I certainly am not confirming any speculation in the press about possible announcements the President might make. I would refer you, again, to what I said and what the President has said about the value he places on diversity, and encourage you to assess the diversity of his appointments once they've all been made. Q But is sexual orientation -- MR. CARNEY: Again, I think -- I don't have any -- you're asking me to make a statement about appointments that haven't been made and I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to get ahead of the President. Q But I’m asking you to make a statement on value -- does the President believe that -- MR. CARNEY: The President values diversity. Q And is sexual orientation and gender identity part of that diversity? MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. And the President values diversity. Roger. Q Back to the Export Council this morning. The Council has long favored a territorial tax system, and I know the President has disagreed with them in the past. Is there any reevaluation going on within the administration on a territorial tax system? MR. CARNEY: I certainly don't have anything new for you on that. I think what the President has said about this represents his views. But I don't have anything new for you. The President believes we need to reform our corporate tax code. But I don't have anything new from what we've said in the past about it. Q Two questions -- one foreign and one domestic. First, the foreign. The U.S. and South Korea are engaged in joint military exercises right now. When those conclude, is the President seriously considering leaving behind any assets like a nuclear-armed sub or anything to assist with any deterrents against North Korean provocation? MR. CARNEY: Well, that's a speculative question, A; B, it's not a question that I think I can answer from here. I would just tell you that these are military exercises that like all combined forces command exercises are defense oriented and designed to enhance readiness and the ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise. You heard me talk yesterday about our view of the provocative rhetoric emanating from the DPRK. You heard me talk about the actions taken at the United Nations Security Council in response to North Korean behavior and decisions. And we continue to work with our allies on this issue, but I don't have any defense posture announcements to make from here. Q And then on the budget, on its face, it looks like the President is waiting for the Democrats to come out -- the Senate Democrats to come out with their plan that’s unpalatable, the Republicans in the House come out with their plan that’s unpalatable, and then come out in April with his own compromised plan that will be more palatable. MR. CARNEY: It will be entirely palatable. Q But that’s out of regular order when the law requires the President put a budget out in February. So is it worth ignoring the law in order to own the compromise? MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it is worth getting to yes if there are Republicans willing to get to yes, if that’s your question. I don’t think that the timing of the budget is reflective of that goal, but I think the goal here is to find willing partners who embrace the idea of a balanced approach to deficit reduction as well as who embrace the idea of bipartisan cooperation in tackling some of the other challenges that won’t be solved if we don’t do it in a bipartisan way. Q But would you admit that regular order involves the President presenting a budget in the first week of February? MR. CARNEY: I think that the President’s budget will be a useful and valuable contribution to a process that, at least potentially, could result in a bipartisan compromise that achieves balanced deficit reduction, that includes the essential investments in our economy that allow it to grow and protect the middle class, and that would be part of a process -- again, this is in an ideal world -- that will see bipartisan cooperation on not just these issues, but other issues, because the American people really expect that and want that. And the President is focused not just on deficit reduction and budget matters, but on the other things that we can do together in Washington that will help the country help the economy and help the middle class. Q Thank you, Jay. MR. CARNEY: Thanks, all. END 1:36 P.M. EDT
* Dow hits third straight intraday record high * Financials strongest sector on day, BofA gains * Jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week * Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct By Ryan Vlastelica NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday, with the Dow ending at a record for a third straight day as jobless claims data pointed to a pick-up in the labor market's recovery a day before the closely watched payrolls report. The Dow and the S&P 500 were both up for their fifth straight days as investors looked for opportunities to buy into the recent rally. However, caution ahead of the jobs report curbed gains and kept the S&P more than 1 percent below its record close. "Today's move is pretty tranquil. No one is going to take big positions ahead of tomorrow's number, but the market is definitely in an uptrend," said Paul Zemsky, the New York-based head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management. Growth-oriented sectors led the day's gains. The S&P financial index added 0.7 percent and hit an intraday high. Shares of Dow component Bank of America rose 2.9 percent to $12.26 while JPMorgan Chase & Co added 1.2 percent to $50.63. A strengthening economy and loose monetary policy by central banks around the world have pushed U.S. stocks higher this year. Investors have kept buying into the market since Tuesday's rally, but gains have been more subdued. Worries remain as Washington debates the path of fiscal policy, the euro zone is not out of its crisis, and U.S. economic growth remains anemic. However, the latest economic data was encouraging, as the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000. It was the second straight week of declines. Investors will stay focused on the labor market ahead of Friday's non-farm payrolls report, which is expected to show the U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in February. While it has been a soft spot in the economic recovery, the labor market is seen as healing slowly. "If payrolls disappoint, we'll have a pullback, but that won't be enough to derail the rally," said Zemsky, who helps oversee $170 billion. "If the report is strong, markets still have room to grow." The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.25 points, or 0.23 percent, to 14,329.49, a record closing high. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 2.80 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,544.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9.72 points, or 0.30 percent, to end at 3,232.09. During Thursday's session, the Dow climbed as high as 14,354.69 - its third straight intraday record high. The Dow is up 9.4 percent so far this year, while the S&P 500 is up 8.3 percent. The Russell 2000 Index, which measures the performance of 2,000 U.S. small-cap companies, closed at a record high in Thursday's session, as did the Russell 1000 and the Russell 3000. In a separate report on Thursday, the Commerce Department said the U.S. international trade deficit widened more than expected in January as crude oil imports rose and fuel oil exports fell. In contrast, the department cut its estimate of the December trade gap. Shares of network equipment maker Ciena jumped 17.3 percent to $17.53 after the company reported a smaller quarterly loss. Retail stocks were among the most active following February same-store sales. Gap Inc jumped 4.1 percent to $35.87 as its results were stronger than expected, while Zumiez slid 4.8 percent to $22 on a weak report. Teen apparel retailer Hot Topic Inc said it will be bought by private equity firm Sycamore Partners for about $600 million. Shares surged 29 percent to $13.87. Time Warner Inc rose 2.4 percent to $56.78 after the company said it would spin off its magazine unit, ending weeks of merger talks with Meredith Corp. Meredith fell 6.2 percent to $37.82. On the down side, shares of PetSmart fell 6.6 percent to $62.18 after the company's full-year profit forecast missed analysts' estimates. At least two brokerages cut their price targets on the retailer's stock. About 56 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed higher, while 58 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended in positive territory. Volume was light, with about 6.1 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares.
Why It’s So Tough to Get Your Head Around Climate Change Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Two Sundays ago, I traveled to the nation’s capital to attend what was billed as “the largest climate rally in history” and I haven’t been able to get the experience -- or a question that haunted me -- out of my mind. Where was everybody? First, though, the obvious weather irony: climate change didn’t exactly come out in support of that rally. In the midst of the warmest years and some of the warmest winters on record, the demonstration, which focused on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline -- it will bring tar-sands oil, some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-richest energy available from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast -- was the coldest I’ve ever attended. I thought I’d lose a few fingers and toes while listening to the hour-plus of speakers, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, who were theoretically warming the crowd up for its march around the (other) White House. And I also experienced a moment of deep disappointment. When I arrived early at the spot in front of the Washington Monument on the National Mall where we were to assemble, my heart sank. It looked like only a few thousand protestors were gathering for what had been billed as a monster event. I had taken it for granted that I would be adding one small, aging body (and voice) to a vast crowd at a propitious moment to pressure Barack Obama to become the climate-change president he hasn’t been. After all, he has a decision to make that’s his alone: whether or not to allow that pipeline to be built. Nixing it would help keep a potentially significant contributor to climate change, those Albertan tar sands, in the ground. In other words, I hoped to play my tiny part in preserving a half-decent future for this planet, my children, and my new grandson. Sixty environmental and other organizations were backing the demonstration, including the Sierra Club with its hundreds of thousands of members. Given what was potentially at stake, it never crossed my mind that the turnout wouldn’t be substantial. In fact, on that frigid day, lots of demonstrators did turn up. Evidently, they knew the dirty little secret of such events: that much talk would precede a modest amount of walking and inventive slogan shouting. So they arrived -- poured in actually -- late, and in real numbers. In the end, the organizers estimated attendance at somewhere in the 35,000-50,000 range. Media reports varied between the usual “thousands,” generically used to describe (or, if you’re in a conspiratorial frame of mind, minimize) any demonstration, and tens of thousands. I have no way of estimating myself, but certainly the crowd was, in the end, sizeable, as well as young, enthusiastic, and loud. It made itself heard passing the White House. Not that President Obama was there to hear anything. He was then on a golf course in the Florida warmth teeing up with “a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas, and pipeline players.” That seemed to catch another kind of climate-change reality of our moment and strongly hinted at the strength of the forces any such movement is up against. In the meantime, Keystone builder TransCanada was ominously completing the already green-lighted first half of the Texas-Oklahoma leg of its prospective future pipeline. In the end, I felt genuine satisfaction at having been there, but given what was at stake, given Frankenstorm Sandy, the devastating Midwestern drought and record southwestern fires of 2012, the Snowmageddon winter storm that had recently dropped 40 inches of the white stuff on Hamden, Connecticut, the blistering spring and summer of 2012, the fast-melting Arctic sea ice, and the fact that last year broke all heat records for the continental United States, given the build-up of billion-dollar weather disasters in recent years, and the growing emphasis on “extreme weather” events on the national TV news, shouldn’t hundreds of thousands have been there? After all, I’ve been in antiwar demonstrations in which at least that many marched and in 1982, I found myself in my hometown in a crowd of a million demonstrating against the possibility of a world-ending nuclear war. Is climate change a less important issue? “There Is No Planet B” While protesting that Sunday, I noted one slogan on a number of hand-made signs that struck me as the most pointed (and poignant) of the march: “There is no planet B.” It seemed to sum up what was potentially at stake: a planet to live reasonably comfortably on. You really can’t get much more basic than that, which is why hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, should have been out in the streets demanding that our leaders begin to attend to climate change before it’s quite literally too late. After all, to my mind, climate change, global warming, extreme weather -- call it what you will -- is the obvious deal-breaker in human, if not planetary, history. Everything but nuclear catastrophe pales by comparison, no matter the disaster: 9/11, 70,000 dead in Syria, failed wars, the grimmest of dictatorships, movements of hope that don’t deliver -- all of that’s familiar history. Those are the sorts of situations where you can try again, differently, or future generations can and maybe do far better. All of it involves human beings who need to be dealt with or human structures that need to be changed. While any of them may be the definition of “the worst of times,” they are also the definition of hope. Nature and the weather are another matter (even if it’s humanity that, by burning of fossil fuels at increasingly staggering rates, has created its own Frankenstein's monster out of the natural world). Climate change is clearly something new in our experience. Even in its relatively early but visibly intensifying stages, it threatens to be the singular event in human history, because unlike every other disaster we can imagine (except a full-scale nuclear war or, as has happened in the planet’s past, a large meteorite or asteroid impact), it alone will alter the basis for life on this planet. Raise the planet’s temperature by three to six degrees Celsius, as various well-respected scientific types and groups are now suggesting might happen by century’s end (and possibly throw in some more heat thanks to the melting of the permafrost in the north), and if you live in a city on a coastline, you'd better watch out. And that only begins to suggest the problems humanity will face. The world, at best, will be a distinctly poorer, less comfortable place for us (and from there the scenarios only get uglier). Don’t misunderstand me. I’m no scientist. I doubt I’d even be considered scientifically literate (though I try). But the scientific consensus on the subject of climate change seems striking enough to me, and what’s happening around us is no less striking as a confirmation that our world is changing -- and remarkably quickly at that. Whether you read about melting glaciers, the melting Greenland ice shield, melting Arctic waters, melting permafrost, acidifying oceans, intensifying storms, greater desertification, wilder wild fires, or so many other allied subjects, doesn’t it always seem that the rates of bad news are on the rise and the word “record” is usually lurking somewhere in the vicinity? So I continue to wonder, given our situation on this planet, given our future and that of our children and grandchildren, where is everybody? Can You Organize Against the Apocalypse? Don’t for a second think that I have some magic answer to that question. Still, as it’s been on my mind, here’s an attempt to lay out at least some of the possible factors, micro to macro, that might have limited the size of that crowd two Sundays ago and perhaps might tend to limit the size of any climate-change crowd, as well as the mobilizing possibilities that lie in the disaster awaiting us. Outreach: Yes, there were at least 60 groups involved, but how much outreach was there really? Many people I know hadn’t heard a thing about the event. And while climate change has been on the human agenda for a while now, a real movement to deal with what’s happening to us is in its absolute infancy. There is so much outreach and so much education that still needs to be done. The slowness of movements: It’s easy to forget how long it can take for movements of change to grow, for their messages to cohere, penetrate, and begin to make sense or seem meaningful to large numbers of people in terms of their everyday lives. Despite its obvious long-term destructive power, for many reasons (see below) climate change might prove a particularly difficult issue to link to our everyday lives in ways that mobilize rather than demobilize us. On a similarly difficult issue, the nuclear movement, it took literally decades to grow to that million-person march, and even early anti-Vietnam War protests were smaller than the recent Keystone demo. Politics: Attitudes toward climate change have largely polarized along left-right lines, so that the issue seems politically ghettoized at the moment (though there was a time when Republicans of some stature were concerned about the subject). To my mind, it’s part of the insanity of our moment that the preservation of our planet as we have known it, which should be the great conservative issue of our era, is now pure poison on the right. Even American paleo-conservatives, who are willing to make common cause on American war policy with left anti-imperial types, won’t touch it with a 10-foot poll. When this begins to change, you’ll know something of significance is happening. Enemies: Here’s a factor it’s easy to ignore, but no one should. Giant energy companies and energy-connected right-wing billionaires have for years now been funneling staggering amounts of money into a network of right-wing think tanks and websites dedicated to creating doubts about climate change and promoting climate denial. In the latest revelation about the well-financed climate-denial movement, the British Guardian reports that between 2002 and 2010, $120 million dollars was shuttled, “using a secretive funding route,” into “more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.” It all came from conservative billionaires (and not just the Koch brothers) who were guaranteed total anonymity. And it “helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.” The funders of this “movement” and their minions should, of course, be disqualified on the spot. They are almost all identified with and profit from the very fossil fuels that climate-change scientists say are heating up the planet. But they -- and a few outlier scientific types they’ve scrounged up -- provide the “balance,” the “two sides,” that the mainstream media adores. And they play upon the arcane nature of Science itself to intimidate the rest of us. Science: When you have a bad boss, or your country is ruled by a dictator, or your bank cheats you, it’s within your everyday experience. You have some body of personal knowledge to draw on to understand the situation. You are personally offended. But Science? For most of us, the very word is intimidating. It means what we didn’t understand in school and gave up understanding long ago. To grasp climate change means teaching yourself Science with no professors in sight. Filling the knowledge bank you don’t have on your own. It’s daunting. Oh yes, the Ice-Albedo feedback loop. Sure thing. If the boss, the bank, the dictator takes your home, you get it. If Superstorm Sandy turns your home into rubble, what you get is an argument. What you need is an education to know just what role “climate change” might have played in making that storm worse, or whether it played any role at all. Similarly, you need an education to grasp the dangers of those tar sands from Canada. It can be overwhelming. Doubts are continually raised (see “enemies”), the natural variability of the weather makes climate change easier to dismiss, and sometimes, when Science takes the lead, it’s easier just to duck. Nature: Science is bad enough; now, throw in Nature. How many of us still live on farms? How many of us still live in “the wilderness”? Isn’t Nature what we catch on the Discovery Channel? Isn’t it what we pay a lot of money to drop in on briefly and ogle while on vacation? In our everyday lives, most of us are, in some way, no longer a part of this natural world of “ours” -- not at least until drought strikes your region, or that “record wildfire” approaches your community, or that bear/coyote/skunk/puma stumbles into your (urban or suburban) neck of the woods. Connecting with Nature, no less imagining the changing natural state of a planet going haywire (along with the likelihood of mass, climate-changed induced extinctions) is again not exactly an easy thing to do; it’s not what comes “naturally” to us. Blame: Any movement needs a target. But this isn’t the Arab Spring. Climate change is not Hosni Mubarak. This isn’t the Occupy moment. Climate change is not simply “Wall Street” or the 1%. It’s not simply the Obama administration, a polarized Congress filled with energy-company-supported climate ignorers and deniers, or the Chinese leadership that’s exploiting coal for all its worth, or the Canadian government that abandoned the Kyoto treaty and supports that tar-sands pipeline, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has put its money where its mouth is in American electoral politics when it comes to climate change. Yes, the giant energy companies, which are making historic profits off our burning planet, couldn’t be worse news or more culpable. The oil billionaires are a disaster, and so on. Still, targets are almost too plentiful and confusing. There are indeed villains, but so many of them! And what, after all, about the rest of us who lend a hand in burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow? What about our consumer way of life to which all of us are, to one degree or another, addicted, and which has been a model for the rest of the world. Who then is the enemy? What exactly is to be done? In other words, there is an amorphousness to who’s aiding and abetting climate change that can make the targeting on which any movement thrives difficult. The future: In the environmental movement, there is some serious discussion about why it’s so hard for climate change to gain traction among the public (and in the media). It’s sometimes said that the culprit is our brains, which weren’t set up, in an evolutionary sense, to deal with a problem that won’t deliver its full whammy for perhaps close to a century or more. Actually, I wonder about this. I would argue, based on the historical record, that our brains are well enough equipped to face distant futures and their problems. In fact, I think it’s a reasonable proposition that if you can’t imagine the future, if you can’t imagine building something not just for yourself but for your children or the children of others and of future generations, then you probably can’t build a movement at all. All movements, even those intent on preserving the past, are in some sense future-oriented. The apocalypse: Here’s the thing, though. It’s difficult to organize for or even against a future that you can’t imagine yourself and those children and future generations in. The thought of world-ending events may simply close down our operative imaginations. The end of the world may be popular in fiction, but in everyday life, I suspect, the apocalypse is the version of the future that it’s hardest to mobilize around. If the prospect is that it’s already hopeless, that the suffering is going to be largely down the line, that we’re all going down anyway, and the planet will simply be destroyed, well, why bother? Why not focus on what matters to you now and forget the rest? This is where denial, the almost involuntary turning away from unpalatable futures that seem beyond our power or ability to alter, comes into play. If the future is essentially over before it begins, then better to ignore it and go about your still palatable enough daily life. Putting Your Money on Climate Change Add all these factors (and others I’ve probably ignored) together and perhaps it’s a miracle that so many people turned out in Washington two weekends ago. As we’ve already learned in this nuclear age of ours, it’s quite possible for a grid of exterminationism, a sense of hopelessness about the distant future, to descend upon us almost unnoticed. That grid in no way stops you from thinking about your own life in the present, or even about the immediate future, about, say, getting married, having a child, making a living, but it’s crippling when it comes to mobilizing for a different future. I’ve always believed that some of the vaunted organizing power and energy of the famed Sixties came from the fact that, in 1963, the superpowers achieved an agreement on the testing of nuclear weapons that sent them underground and more or less out of consciousness. The last end-of-the-world films of that era appeared in 1964, just as bomb-shelter and civil defense programs were heading for the graveyard. By 1969, the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy had even eliminated "nuclear" from its own name. Without necessarily being aware of it, many (especially among the young), I suspect, felt their energies liberated from a paralyzing sense of doom. You no longer had to think about scenarios in which the two Cold War superpowers would destroy the planet. It made almost anything seem possible. For a brief period before the Reagan presidency raised such fears again, you could look to the future with a sense of hope, which was exhilarating. Can there be any doubt that, to steal a phrase from that era, the personal is indeed political? On the other hand, the apocalypse, particularly an apocalypse that features Science and Nature in its starring roles, seems anything but personal or stoppable -- unless you’re a farmer and a pipeline filled with a particularly nasty version of oil runs right through your nearest aquifer. The real issue here is how to make climate change personal in a way that doesn’t simply cause us to shut down. One of the cleverer approaches to climate change has been that of Bill McKibben, the man who organized 350.org. In a determined fashion, he’s been breaking the overwhelming nature of climate change down into some of its component parts that can be grasped, focused on, and organized around. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging students to lobby to make their schools divest from big fossil fuel companies are examples of his approach. More generally, climate change is, in fact, becoming more personal by the year. In the “extreme weather,” which so regularly leads the TV news, its effects are coming closer to us all. Increasing numbers of us know, in our hearts, that it’s the real deal. And no, it doesn’t have to be the apocalypse either. The planet itself, of course, will survive and, given a few hundred thousand or even a few million years, will recover and once again be a thriving place of some unknown sort. As for humanity, we’re a clever enough species. Sooner or later, we will undoubtedly figure out how to survive as well, but the questions are: How many of us? On what terms? In what kind of degraded state? And what can we do soon to mitigate climate change’s worst future effects? Perhaps a modern, post-religious version of seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous bet is what’s needed. He argued that it was in the interest of those who remained in doubt about God to place a wager on His existence. As he pointed out, with such a bet, if you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing. Something somewhat analogous might be said of climate change. Perhaps it’s time to put your wager on the reality of climate change, on its paramount importance to us and our children and our children’s children, and to bet as well that your efforts (and those of others) will in the end make enough of a difference. Then, if you win, humanity wins everything; if you lose, well, there will be hell to pay. Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
From Qbamco's Paul Brodsky: Macro Polo The absence of meaningful negative market responses to debt ceiling dramas, Japanese inflation targeting, trillion dollar coins, and other odd and dubious politically-oriented market meddling seems to be sending reflexive signals back to capitals: all clear, continue self-destructing. The markets seem not to care, knowing that central banks have their back. Money creation can suspend nominal economic contraction and ensure rising financial markets until something, (anything!), might stir the public’s imagination again and animal spirits. But while money can suspend animation, it is not and cannot replace real economic functioning. In fact, ongoing money creation is locking-in negative real economic growth and real returns in most financial assets. We think the best strategy for discretionary investors is to stay focused on the growing monetary mountain across the valley, and to not look down. This piece seeks to place the current investment environment in economic, political and social perspective. The second Chukker may break new ground for many. * * * A European friend recently suggested to us that madness has taken over American politics. True that. But it seems more likely that American politics is merely reflecting far greater and deeper social introspection. Americans seem to be in the process of sorting themselves into groups with shared social values. Why might this be? Perhaps it is because our money no longer allows us to measure our personal industry? What is my personal economic value to society when a Nobel Laureate thinks the effect of proclaiming a trillion dollar coin would be “benign”? On the surface, Left and Right fringes have always seemed bipolar opposites in terms of their social sensibilities and views on the optimal role of government. However, it is obvious that in the current environment the fringes are infiltrating established parties with which each has historically been associated and, it seems, finding a hollow core – the parties are long of self-serving ambition and tactical expertise and short of worthwhile principles. In this, the Left and Right fringes have a lot in common. They share deep disappointment in the efficacy of government and they are increasingly agitated by their representation in it. The response of centrist elected leaders has been to revert to what they know: to secure funding from special interests with deep pockets in return for implicit favors, and then to use the funds to create a fictional narrative to appeal to the masses. As time goes on the masses are learning their representatives are providing only basal representation; enough only to keep them on the team for the next election cycle. The sad reality is that this is actually working for elected officials and their backers, but at a cost of increasing popular self-worth and identity. Governments in representative democracies are not providing representation and their policies resemble nothing close to economic problem solving. Rather, they seem to be the result of consultants’ cost/benefit analyses of political capital expended vs. …what, self-serving ambition? It may be working now but the political establishment should be very worried. The rest of us, regardless of our past politics, should be very excited. Like an old married couple that can no longer talk past each other once the money runs out, competing political parties are discovering they cannot escape each other as their societies’ real wealth is diminishing. It seems they are almost to the point where they might have to begin to give a shine about the people they ostensibly serve. (Look for the reincarnation of Andrew Jackson in 2016 or 2020?) * * * Discussions of fiscal cliffs and sovereign bailouts are political constructs that we think have less to do with secular macroeconomics than most observers believe. At the risk of seeming overly glib, such events have been inevitable flashpoints that had to emerge. They represent the decision surrounding debt default: should it be explicit (natural credit deterioration that demands sudden widespread austerity), or implicit (policy-administered inflation that demands the loss of perceived wealth)? The former would demand politicians and policy makers step away and let organic market forces prevail. Debt would quickly be right-sized through massive defaults, nominal output levels would drop precipitously and there would be great social expense in the near term. The latter would maintain irreconcilable debt-to-real output levels at not-so-obvious near-term social expense in perpetuity until societies implode, their economic production uncompensated in real terms. The political decision has been made several times over: do the latter, take a pass and let central banks de-lever private banks, transferring wealth to them from the public directly via transfer payments and indirectly, via inflation. * * * To G7 leadership: it is time to shift the terms of the Monetary Empire before it destroys our cultures, both externally and from within. There are no good data points in the modern era where all global economic participants simultaneously lost faith in a completely unreserved global monetary regime. It would not be in your best interests to test these logical limits and then have to start the system from scratch. But the economic sky does not have to fall and property does not have to be transferred if (when) the current monetary system converts to a more sustainable one. We would all wake up the next morning in our beds and go to work. All that would change is the numbers we place on our commerce and property would be far larger, and the amount we owe far smaller in comparison. We urge readers, policy makers, political donors and, most importantly, global investors able to influence all of the above through capital allocation, to force central banks to devalue our currencies and peg them to sovereign gold, before it is too late. The money spent to date has yet to be created. Close the gap and let us all get back to work. Full letter (pdf link)