The most influential business lobby group in the United States has been linked to a scheme to deploy dirty tricks against its political opponents. Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones that prospective vendors for the Chamber of Commerce hatched a plan to frame and entrap critics of the Chamber.
The plan came to light last week after hackers released thousands of emails obtained from the servers of HBGary Federal, a private security company. The emails reveal Chamber law firm Hunton & Williams was looking for firms to help it execute a plot to entrap bloggers, union officials and other Chamber critics. The goal, according to Harkinson, was to manufacture evidence that all the Chamber's critics were working together to discredit the business group:
According to the emails, Chamber law firm Hunton & Williams wanted to hire digital sleuths that could demonstrate that the business group's opponents had been working as a "single entity instead of a true 'grasroots' campaign." That phrase and others suggest that the Chamber's ultimate goal was to openly accuse its foes of a left-wing form of astroturfing.
HBGary Federal was apparently planning to pitch its services as a "Corporate Information Renaissance Cell" to the Chamber yesterday. The emails show that HBGary Federal and two other firms, Berico Technologies and Palantir, proposed to use the social networking pages of the Chamber's enemies to manufacture evidence of supposed "relationships" between various players.
Labor of Love
Robert Kuttner suggests in The American Prospect that organized labor may be the last best hope for reviving the middle class and restoring shared prosperity:
Though no longer centered in auto and steel factories, unions continue to offer lower-income Americans a path into the middle class--just ask a newly organized janitor, hotel worker, security guard, hospital paraprofessional, home-care worker, or warehouse, call-center, or food-service employee.
Kuttner notes that the average union employee earns about 20% more than a non-unionized worker doing the same job. He also cites evidence that unionized workers are more likely to vote for Democrats than their non-unionized counterparts and that the power of unions to deliver votes for Democrats had been growing steadily up until the Republican blowout in the midterm elections of 2010.
Ari Berman of The Nation takes a closer look at President Obama's proposed federal budget for 2012. The budget calls for investments in high speed rail and a national infrastructure bank. It does not tinker with Medicare or Social Security. The cuts proposed in the budget barely offset the cost of continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Berman notes.
Meanwhile, David Corn of Mother Jones examines the president's budget and feels deja vu from the Clinton administration. At a recent press conference, White House budget director Jared Lew outlined a budget that attempts to save money while"winning the future." Obama's budget promises $1.1 trillion in savings over the next decade, while maintaining investments in future-oriented research and development projects.
Corn notes that the administration is calling for $2.5 billion in cuts to a home heating program (LIHEAP) for the poor and elderly while simultaneously planning a national broadband network. But the administration has more or less given up on immediate job-creation in favor of long-term investment, Corn argues:
It seems the administration has concluded that after that tax-cut deal—which did amount to something of a second stimulus—there is not much else the White House can do via government spending (or tax cuts) to create jobs, especially with Republicans controlling the House.
That sounds good on paper, but how much are these ambitious big ticket projects going to do for Americans who are struggling in the current recession? He thinks it all sounds a lot like former president Bill Clinton's centrist approach to the budget.
Carrie Barker of Ms. Magazine interviews CNN host Jane Velez-Mitchell about her new book Addict Nation, a book about American consumerism as a form of mass addiction. As a recovering alcoholic with 16 years of sobriety, Velez-Mitchell says she began to see connections between her personal struggles and the larger cultural script that "more is better." She argues that our society needs a "consumer revolution" that will prompt people to rethink their buying patterns as conscious social and moral choices, as opposed to reflexive self-gratification.
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