Robert Reich (Obama’s Tiny Jobs Ideas for Main Street, A Big Spending Freeze for Wall Street)

President Obama today offered a set of proposals for helping America’s troubled middle class. All are sensible and worthwhile. But none will bring jobs back. And Americans could be forgiven for wondering how the President plans to enact any of these ideas anyway, when he can no longer muster 60 votes in the Senate.

The bigger news is Obama is planning a three-year budget freeze on a big chunk of discretionary spending. Wall Street is delighted. But it means Main Street is in worse trouble than ever.

A pending freeze will make it even harder to get jobs back because government is the last spender around. Consumers have pulled back, investors won’t do much until they know consumers are out there, and exports are miniscule.

In December 1994, Bill Clinton proposed a so-called “middle class bill of rights” including more tax credits for families with children, expanded retirement accounts, and tax-deductible college tuition. Clinton had lost his battle for health care reform. Even worse, by that time the Dems had lost the House and Senate. Washington was riding a huge anti-incumbent wave. Right-wing populists were the ascendancy, with Newt Gingrich and Fox News leading the charge. Bill Clinton thought it desperately important to assure Americans he was on their side. 

Two months later, Clinton summoned Dick Morris to the White House to figure out how Clinton could move to the right and better position himself for reelection. The answer: Balance the budget.

But in 1994, Clinton’s inconsistencies didn’t much matter. The U.S. economy was coming out of a recession. It was of no consequence that Clinton’s jobs proposals were small or that he moved to the right and whacked the budget, because within a year the great American jobs machine was blasting away and the middle class felt a lot better. Dick Morris was not responsible for Clinton’s reelection. Nor was Clinton’s move to the right. What reelected Bill Clinton in 1996 was a vigorous jobs recovery that was on the way to happening anyway.

Today, though, there’s no sign on the horizon of a vigorous recovery. Jobs may be coming back a bit in the next months but the country has lost so many (not to mention all those who have entered the workforce over the last two years and still can’t land a job) that it will be many years before the middle class can relax. Furthermore, this recession isn’t like other recessions in recent memory. It has more to do with problems deep in the structure of the American economy than with the ups and downs of the business cycle.

Like Clinton’s, Obama’s package of middle class benefits is small potatoes. They’re worthwhile but they pale relative to the size and scale of the challenge America’s middle class is now facing. Obama can no longer afford to come up with lists of nice things to do. At the least, he’s got to do two very big and important things: (1) Enact a second stimulus. It should mainly focus on bailing out state and local governments that are now cutting services and raising taxes, and squeezing the middle class. This would be the best way to reinvigorate the economy quickly. (2) Help distressed homeowners by allowing them to include their mortgage debt in personal bankruptcy — which will give them far more bargaining leverage with morgage lenders. (Wall Street hates this.)

Yet instead of moving in this direction, Obama is moving in the opposite one. His three-year freeze on a large portion of discretionary spending will make it impossible for him to do much of anything for the middle class that’s important. Chalk up another win for Wall Street, another loss for Main. 

 

רשת – חדשות ערוץ 2 טלוויזיה בידור צחוק ושידורים חיים. אתר הוידיאו שלך

Dancing with the Stars, News, Comedy, Drama, Sports – and more – TV, In Hebrew, full episodes, streaming straight from Israel.

Translation of the headline above:  Network News Channel 2, Television, Entertainment, Laughter, and Live Broadcasts.  Your Video Site.

Eze KEF!

Michael Kagan on Avatar and Reb Nachman

Reprinted here with the permission of Michael Kagan

Saturday, January 16, 2010 3:27 PM

I was astounded by the film Avatar.  I didn’t want to leave the theater.  I didn’t want to be unplugged.  Incredible. What story telling.  
What is equally or maybe even more incredible are the parallels with certain aspects of Avatar and passages in Kabbalistic texts.  In preparing for Tu B’shvat I am rereading the anthology “Trees, Earth and Torah” and I came across this passage from an article by Aryeh Wineman quoting the Zohar: The House is situated at the very center of all that is…From its midst there emerges a single large and mighty Tree, with thick branches and fruit… That Tree ascends upwards to the very clouds until it disappears from view among three mountains.  The House, nourished and watered by the Tree, conceals numerous celestial and unknown treasures… Numerous spirits fly about it in the air.  They join with the birds, acquiring their knowledge…  (Unfortunately the reference to the source in the Zohar was not included in the essay.  Anyone knows where it is located?)

Then there’s the following from an essay by Gershon Scholem: Once the unity of the two trees in men’s lives were destroyed there began the domination of the Tree of Knowledge. No longer did unitary gushing, unrestrained life prevail, but duality of good and evil in which the Torah appears in this aspect of revelation.  Since the expulsion from The Garden, in the exile we all find ourselves now, we can no longer apperceive the world as a unified whole.

But more than these two passages I found an extraordinary parallelism to Reb Nachman’s story The Cripple.  Just the title reminds us of the hero in Avatar.  The story is very difficult to understand.  It draws from imagery developed in the Zohar and Tikunai HaZohar (brought to my attention by Reb Avraham Leader) of the Mashiach being crippled and needing to find a way to redeem the World and at the same time fix himself.  There are plenty of references to the Tree that must be tended to.  There are robbers and treasures and magic dust and battles and moons without legs and demons, plenty of demons.  Of course I’m not suggesting that James Cameron was inspired to create Avatar through learning Reb Nachman’s tales but it does show the archetypal structures that are present in our psyches and traditions. In his commentary on this story Arnold Band writes: The demons are portrayed with such human features that the reader often feels the author has in mind the chaotic corruption of contemporary society… We are asked to focus upon the development of the hero from dependence to interdependence and from innocence to profound knowledge and understanding of the power that really controls the world, the power involved in the enigmatic “watering of the Trees”.

Shavua Tov and Chodesh Tov and Shanah Tovah

Michael Kagan
Jerusalem

AJAMI Coming to Film Forum in New York City

AJAMI  WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY SCANDAR COPTI & YARON SHANI

Official Israeli Submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film

“Rarely has the tinderbox nature of the Middle East been so accurately lensed, on such an intimate scale.
The amateur actors’ rawness works both with subject matter and visual style, creating a flawless ensemble.”
– Jay Weissberg, Variety

“4 stars! Absorbing in its complexity, increasingly gripping as we grasp the myriad connections ensnaring the put-upon characters,
this joint venture between Israeli and Palestinian co-directors is impeccable in its balance, but razor sharp in its insights.“

– Trevor Johnston, Time Out (London)

“An amazingly authentic picture, powerfully directed and interpreted by a totally inexperienced cast.”
– Dan Fainaru, Screen International

via filmforum.org – see the trailer there with links to the film’s website!

 

S3K Report: Synagogues That Get It | Synagogue 3000

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Synagogues That Get ItHow Jewish Congregations are Engaging Young Adults

Executive Summary

Synagogue 3000 is proud to introduce the S3K Synagogue Studies S3K Report – Synagogues That Get It: How Jewish Congregations are Engaging Young Adults Institute with its first publication, an S3K Report authored by Tobin Belzer and Donald E. Miller examining synagogue membership in the United States.

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