Editorials: Nito’s project; and Joe’s team

President Cortizo in his cabinet room. Photo by the Presidencia.

Nito’s project

It appears that President Cortizo intends to get some sort of agreement – an actual one or just something that is called that – which has nothing to do with closing any of the extreme gaps between rich and poor in this country. The banks already got their half-billion-dollar giveaway. The telecommunications sector has shamelessly gouged the public during these hard times. Employees have born the brunt of the losses, even if their employers are mostly not making any money.

A weak, unjust and indebted system can’t bear the weight of the health and economic disaster that has befallen Panama. Many a debt will have to be crammed down or erased as a matter of necessity, any consideration of justice aside.

When Cortizo comes to a table and says that the plan is a raised retirement age, cutbacks and privatizations in public health and education, and more hunger for folks who are already hungry, it will be a nonstarter. Labor unions that were invited to the table won’t accept it without something very substantial in return. The informal sector is the majority of working people, will not be at the table, can’t be expected to support any pact in any referendum, and may disrupt all established plans either at the ballot box or in the streets. Members of the PRD will break away or stage an intra-party revolt if the offer is what it would seem to be. Opposition political figures may be bought off as individuals, but those parties with hopes to succeed this administration are not going to buy into the deal.

A call for a constitutional convention would be no miracle cure. There are already different factions demanding that, which have very different ideas about what should be in a new constitution. But it’s the least that the president can offer in exchange for a measure of social peace in the wake of the unpopular things he apparently intends to do.


Neera Tanden. Wikimedia photo by Gage Skidmore.

Biden’s team

Plenty of folks on the left side of the Democratic Party are disappointed with Joe Biden’s picks for certain offices, as trial balloons for other nominations have been floating and drawing flak and progressives have been advocating other possible choices. There are reasons for concern, reasons to take a wait and see attitude and reasons for hope. We shall see.

Whether or not Democrats win control of the US Senate by ousting a pair of shameless inside traders from Georgia, Biden’s choice of Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget has generated a lot of heat. Look for big fights in the Senate, first to get her confirmed. If she passes that hurdle, the Democrat in front of whom she would most often appear on that side of Congress would be Senator Bernie Sanders, either chair or ranking minority committee member of the Budget Committee depending on how those two races in Georgia go. Tanden, a ferocious intra-Democratic faction fighter, has been busy deleting stridently sectarian tweets – which, however, are by and large in different permanent archives. Most were aimed against Bernie Sanders and policies that he favors like Medicare for All and student loan relief. As head of the Clinton-aligned Center for American Progress think tank, Tanden has championed US support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates an a war footing with respect to Iran.

So what if the Biden administration comes to Congress to fund a war with Iran? Bernie Sanders telling Neera Tanden that America can’t afford that might make an interesting show for those who are into such spectacles. The thing is, Tanden is not going to be in charge of decisions about whether to go to war. Moreover, the executive branch my largely be reacting to, not so much shaping, the economic programs that Congress passes. Money bills start in the House, not the White House nor the Senate. Plus, wherever the ultimate political power may lie, external circumstances will shape what the politicians can do.

As to Ms. Tanden, it may not get that far because she’s appointed to a post that requires Senate confirmation. Republicans vow that her appointment is dead on arrival, and if they win at least one of the two Senate races in Georgia, they may have the votes to block her already lined up. If the Democrats take control? Solid GOP resistance and a few Democratic senators who find the woman insufferable might also sink her chances.

On the other hand, labor unions and the left side of the Democratic Party really like Biden’s choice of Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary. As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka put it, “As Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen made critical decisions that prioritized jobs and wages for all working people, including communities of color long ignored by economic policymakers.”

So will we get the economist treasury secretary against the lawyer OMB chief arguing about a return to a neoliberal “Washington Consensus” of an economy globalized on corporate terms? External realities will likely make that argument moot. Things have changed. There will be no going back.

The president will run the executive branch. His team may advise him, but he will make the big decisions. Congress will send him things to sign or veto. Don’t expect Joe Biden to send out capricious orders by Twitter, and don’t expect his appointees to act as free agents.

Already we have an investment fund from which a couple of Biden’s top appointees hail promoting itself on the basis of its connections with them. Let us hope that Biden puts his foot down first thing against any profiteering by members of his team. Trump has and administration of grifters following the example of the con man in chief. Biden should not spend his time on it, but there ought to be civil and criminal consequences for the past four years of sleaze. It would be all for naught if the Democrats don’t punctuate a sharp break with the immediate past.



Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.

Mark Twain


Bear in mind…

Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.

Lois McMaster Bujold

We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna

I went to a convent in New York and was fired finally for my insistence that the Immaculate Conception was spontaneous combustion.

Dorothy Parker


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