We Need a Reality Policy Show for Obama and McCain: Paul O’Neill Says Neither Candidate Connecting on Substantive Challenges


paul o'neill harvard twn.jpg
A loyal TWN reader just caught this clip on MSNBC’s “Race for the White House with David Gregory,”
The clip is with former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. He states:

I have not heard either candidate talk about the $53 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities that we have as a nation, that we need to do something about, or we’re going to have a problem that makes this current financial crisis look like child’s plan not too far down the road.
I haven’t heard anybody say in this campaign the 10,000-page tax code that we have is proof that we’re not an intelligent people. And so what are the candidates talking about? They’re talking about more credits, they’re talking about more deductions, they’re talking about more complication in the tax code.
Neither one of them are talking about, we need to fix this monster, which is also part of our problem.
Neither one of them has a really credible energy plan. We had an opportunity of June of this year: American people drove 12.2 billion miles less because the price of gas was over $4. I didn’t even hear Al Gore say, you know what, we ought to keep the gas price up, because it causes people to conserve, and it reduces the greenhouse gas that we’re putting into the environment. When I hear a presidential candidate tell the people, you know what? $4 gas maybe isn’t even good enough. Maybe it ought to be $5, then I’ll say, this is the truth-teller.
We should vote for this person.

— Steve Clemons
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tahoe Editor for sending this my way.


23 comments on “We Need a Reality Policy Show for Obama and McCain: Paul O’Neill Says Neither Candidate Connecting on Substantive Challenges

  1. David Studhalter says:

    Some of O’Neill’s comments are well-taken, naturally. But it always bothers me when extremely wealthy people like him say we should solve the energy crisis by making fuel more expensive for working people.
    We should make infrastructure investments so there are alternatives to oil, which has hidden security costs (policing the Persian Gulf, for example) that make it prohibitively expensive.
    And sure, we need to reform the tax code. But I notice he doesn’t say the obvious: we need to raise taxes substantially on the wealthiest Americans. And, to avoid having to raise taxes to a crippling level on everyone else, we need to cut way back on the “expense of empire” expenditures of the government. The cold war is over, so we don’t need many of the expensive weapons systems designed for those applications. Our security needs would be much more manageable if we followed Andrew Bacevich’s advice, moreover, and moved orderly but swiftly away from any notion of maintaining or pursuing American empire in the world.
    As for “unfunded” entitlements, let’s find out exactly what we’re talking about here. Other countries have far superior entitlements, and they manage to keep their fiscal operations in order. Taxes need to be increased, no doubt, but with a fair tax code resembling the one we had in the 1950s, and cutbacks in expenditures that don’t create wealth or jobs, we can, I believe the analysis will show, fund a reasonable level of retirement security and health care for our people.


  2. edward chatham says:

    these Bushies circling the next guy like a bunch of frenzied
    sharks…where in the hell were they these last seven years and
    more when they’re boss was driving the ship of state into the
    ditch. Thank god we’ll likely have a fresh touch at the wheel soon
    and maybe we can gets this bus out of the ditch…if Bush had kept
    the little one in his britches and the big one out of the ditches, we
    wouldn’t be where we are in the first place…the next president is
    gonna have to have a pit crew just to find parking at the white


  3. CharlieKro says:

    Start sharpening the guillotines


  4. Mr.Murder says:

    special week*
    …spellcheck ran in my other window…
    There’s another issue as well.
    Judicial appointments.
    I’m beginning to think the best way to bridge that for Obama would be to appoint the Hon.Reggie Walton tot he Highest court’s first vacancy. He was once a GHWB appointment, the man who heard Scooter Libby’s trial, isn’t he also Republican?
    It would be a pretty good way to reach across the aisle, knowing Bush Sr. once appointed him to a higher court. Republicans opposing Walton would be opposing a merited minority who was good enough to have been promoted by GHWB, it could salvage some of the Bush legacy as well.
    That kind of svelte political move could create opportunity for developing greater support from the other party, and make loyal opposition more loyal.
    He seems to have established full respect for stare decisis as well. A true rule of law type, judging from the one case I’ve been fortunate to have heard him rule in.


  5. Mr.Murder says:

    Steve, you are aware this is a sepcial week for librarians and book entushiasts, right?
    Banned Book Week
    Our local bookstore(owner is best friends w/Hillary) is sponsoring one of these “Read Ins” and will even broadcast some of the higlights on local access.
    “James and the Giant Peach” will be read from 5-7 tonight and its film will be broadcast later. It was one of the most challenged books from 1999-2000 and earns distinction for reading in the event.
    Think Gov.Palin will want to show up?


  6. Mr.Murder says:

    We have put caps on oil imports to drive the price up, always have.
    Remove the import cap, expand the SPR like Bill Clinton did so more gas reaches the market.
    Alternative fuels are not cheaper from an energy or fuel economy perspective. They’re far more expensive and subsidized. They use inordinate water and two to three times the energy made in their production, plus they drive food prices far higher and that is a major stagflation lever.
    O’Neill knows neither will speak against beholden interests of the seven sisters. Why not work in the opposite direction until you pass the threshold of market demand as a way of controlling consumption?
    He’s seen the economic numbers graphed and understands that some points surpass our capacity to deny the bottom line costs associated with impulse and discretion.
    The solution will be to raise minimum wage to a living wage, then have people continue the same behavior by overusing the new money to adhere the same lifestyle they had when gas was a fourth as expensive and they made half as much.
    The tax base would expand, and revenue would improve.


  7. Carroll says:

    Posted by erichwwk Oct 02, 8:50AM – Link
    also, thanks to tahoe editor for the tip, and steve for recognizing its importance.
    John H. writes:
    “What does punishing the public and small and large business with $5.00 gas have to do with becoming energy independent?”
    I am afraid it is you who are full of shit my dear.
    First you are arguing against my statement with an illustration that has nothing to do with my comment that punishing consumers and business with high gas prices does nothing toward energy independence. Consumers have zero power to effect energy independence except to complain about it and so far that has resulted in a book by Gore and cat calls in congress to drill here and now.
    Second, tell us what subsidies were in effect in 2000 when gas was 1.25 a gallon that aren’t in effect now that gas is 4.50 a gallon? Huummm? Go on tell me. Even better, explain how demand, even world wide demand for more oil for gas, energy, business, irreponsible consumers,has increased by almost 400% as prices would indicate. It hasn’t.
    You make the typical mistake that people make when they have had had some little relationship with something surrounding an issue and because that is your only knowledge or experience with it you try to make your one experience the whole case.
    Your light rail study team and weatherizing low income houses is a good conservation effort but it has nothing to do with my statement that punishing business and consumers who have no control of development of other energy sources is not the answer to energy independence.
    Your home based business make work for you but that model doesn’t work for the national delivery network of goods and products that make the economy go round.
    You are the one that needs to get the big picture…the energy and gas probelm doesn’t revolve around your one little personal example. You won’t make a living with your home based construction business very long when the trucks that deliver the lumber to your supplier or the trucks that deliver the tools you use to your store can’t run or do run but make your cost and your clients cost so expensive that you don’t have any business.
    I suggest you “grow up” as you told POA…you are the one basing everything you say strictly on “your own personal situtation” and idea about how “only you” are doing the right thing and “your model” would work for the entire energy problem. It won’t.
    This country runs by moving things…by truck, plane, trains and ships..they all take some kind of fuel. Without that network you and 90% of the country would be out of business.
    In short…if you don’t want to start a flame war…then get over yourself. Pontificating on how you handle your own personal pimple is not a cure for universal acne.


  8. erichwwk says:

    Don’t want to start a flame war. But while I often agree with you, in this case I allege it is YOU that is so full of shit it’s reached your brain.
    So take a deep breath, and calm down. And GROW UP.
    I, like you, have made my living primarily by building houses and small commercials for the last 2o years. I have long learned to buy smaller trucks, and consider distance to work as a variable, billable expense. So I bill FROM my house, and until I am returned (clean, unloaded, etc) i am on the clients time, and their cost.
    And try looking at things from society’s, rather, than your own perspective. If society gave you the $200 a week you feel entitled to, YOU would be better off, but everyone else would be worse off. And if you spent it ALL on supporting your fuel habit, even YOU could do better, if you accepted the reality of what fuel cost and made some adjustments. Think through the energy embedded costs in what you do.
    And rather than LOWERING the price of gas, I say keep it high, and give you the $200/week. It would cause alternative fuels to come into being, and indulge those so fixated on fuel as to enable their habit, without decreasing their wealth. But many folks adjust by buying trailers for their tools, biking to work, and building differently. But whatever rings your bell.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “What does punishing the public and small and large business with $5.00 gas have to do with becoming energy independent?”
    “First, it is NOT punishing. It is HELPING.”
    What absolute horseshit.
    Obviously you aren’t having to truck the tools of your trade, and materials, on long commutes to your various jobsites. Tell ya what, you blithering dolt, why don’t you absolve my two hundred dollar a week fuel costs, then get back to me with that kind of blather?


  10. Sue says:

    I have a great admiration for O’neil from reading The Price of
    Loyalty published in 2004! long before all other critical books and
    the it was the first time Bush really scared me because of Bush’s
    decision making process revealed by O’neil. I agree with what O’neil
    said. But a true leader not only has to have right ideas but know the
    right timing to advocate them so that the idea can be
    implemented. I think, or I hope, that’s the strengthen of Obama.
    He’s pragmatic. He would sacrifice the purity of a good, big idea
    for incremental progress in a right direction that’s doable.


  11. erichwwk says:

    mea culpa, John H.
    Should have addressed comment to Carroll


  12. erichwwk says:

    also, thanks to tahoe editor for the tip, and steve for recognizing its importance.
    John H. writes:
    “What does punishing the public and small and large business with $5.00 gas have to do with becoming energy independent?”
    First, it is NOT punishing. It is HELPING.
    Second, it has EVERYTHING to do with becoming energy independence. The artificial low price of gasoline (HUGE subsidies) is the primary factor working AGAINST energy independence. W/o those subsidies, we would have a tighter infrastructure (better work to product to home relationship), better automobiles, trains, broadband, etc, etc.
    Until we accept that HONEST/REAL prices are better than DISHONEST/ SUBSIDIZED LOW prices, we will squander resources.
    Once we had a better government. In 1973 i was part of a study team that argued those things and the feds (DOD) listened, and understood, allowing us to divert Interstate Highway funds to Light rail in east Portland (OR). European countries add a tax to simulate congestion costs,and w/o the subsidies, have a much higher gasoline price, but resources are allocated much more efficiently.
    Ditto, with DOE during the Carter administration. Rather than the silly subsidies Sens. Domenici and Bingaman are proposing. DOE listened to us, and under the NW Conservation Act, recognized that weatherizing low income houses in the BPA watershed allowed us to “produce” electricity much lower than two proposed nukes, and they were mothballed. It was the OPEC induced price spike that was responsible for moving production from inefficient methods to more efficient ones, and it was a win-win situation.
    Arguing for LOW gasoline prices that are not based on honest market factors is the height of stupidity. All it does is prevent the true cost effective alternatives from manifesting.


  13. Bartolo says:

    Asking the public to embrace a sorry future does not gain elections. Hell, aWol couldn’t even ask for overt sacrifices during wartime; a first. He had to rely on covert pain only in the form on continued red ink for our descendants.


  14. ... says:

    i agree with JohnH… i liked paul o’neil as he was one of the early ones to speak out against bush.. thanks tahoe for sharing this..


  15. Bill R. says:

    Paul O’Neil, such courage. He was busy kissing Bush’s rear end and fronting for his policies until he left. Why didn’t he run for president if he’s such a whiz on policy? He disgusts me.


  16. Carroll says:

    Generally I like O’Neal but this statement is stupid:
    “We had an opportunity of June of this year: American people drove 12.2 billion miles less because the price of gas was over $4. I didn’t even hear Al Gore say, you know what, we ought to keep the gas price up, because it causes people to conserve, and it reduces the greenhouse gas that we’re putting into the environment. When I hear a presidential candidate tell the people, you know what? $4 gas maybe isn’t even good enough. Maybe it ought to be $5,..”
    What does punishing the public and small and large business with $5.00 gas have to do with becoming energy independent? We are going to become energy independent by beating the shit out of consumers and business? I don’t think so. Will the blackmail on the public of drill, drill now here at home lower the price or make us energy independent? I don’t think so. Energy “independence is a misnomer anyway….we might some day not be so dependent on oil but we will be dependent on some kind of energy…and the same people who now control oil in the US will control that energy source also.
    This is just a stupid statement. It’s not as simple as making it painful/impossible for consumers to travel or businesses to do business.
    If Paul wants to tell the truth, he can start telling the whole truth…about how our “leaders” and congress have for decades structured our economy on a house of sand…and why …and for whose benefit….and why the entire system has to be radically changed….starting with government.
    I am just really tired of these simiple minded little jingos about conservation and high prices being the answer..it’s a drop in the bucket…not the answer.


  17. FaceOnMars says:

    Steve, I’m sure you’re pecking away at the keyboard right now (or sleeping) re: Senate passage of the “bailout”.
    One thing which struck me was the vote margin. When’s the last time there was a vote in the Senate on a controversial issue with a margin that big?
    RE: O’Neill: I too, have always wondered about the enormity of our economic foundation & it’s dependencies and such. I believe the world has yet to see such a large system go astray in an extreme manner, but there are undercurrents which we’ve witness which could trigger a vulnerability in the system to set off the dominoes.


  18. JohnH says:

    The candidates can’t address real issues, because that would be tantamount to admiting that the American people are something more than a mass of mindless lemmings waiting to be told where to mass. That would turn the orthodoxy of the American political elite on its head.
    Remember, Steve, that politicians and youe foreign policy establishment can barely bring themselves to admit that the Iraq Occupation is about oil. If they can’t talk about the real reasons for wasting a few $Trillion in Iraq 5 years into the venture, how can we expect them to talk about any issue with honesty?


  19. Mr.Murder says:

    The man speaks truth to power. Viva O’Neill!


  20. erichwwk says:

    Frank C.:
    Actually Paul O’Neill was one of the early insider whistleblowers w/ “the Price of Loyalty”. Perhaps not early enough for you?
    Is it not the message (the trillions of unregulated money creation), and not the messenger (or that the message “might have been”- perhaps was? delivered earlier) that should matter?
    Who are you familiar with that issued earlier warnings?
    What is prudent about rejecting the good, in preference to the perfect?


  21. erichwwk says:

    FWIW, here is NAF fellow Anatol Lieven’s plug for the book, from the back dust jacket:
    Andrew Bacevich has written a razor-sharp dissection of the national myths that befuddle U.S. approaches to the outside world and fuel the Washington establishment’s dangerous delusions of omnipotence. His book should be read by every concerned citizen”
    And that of Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor:
    “In the ‘Limits to Power’, Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America’s culture of exceptionalism and scores a bulls-eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we can cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility”


  22. Frank C. says:

    Why wasn’t he so outspoken when it really mattered?
    Another phony “hero” like Colin Powell.
    There’s no risk for him now. I don’t trust him.


  23. erichwwk says:

    Ah. Finally we’re getting somewhere. I hope folks read the Marshall Auerbach article on the magnitude of unregulated money that has been created, and its implication for the US economy.
    NM Sen. Pete Domenici still talks of building more nuclear power plants, despite the fact that they are not economically viable. It’s all about trying to maintain the illusion of American wealth, in the same way we can’t accept the illusion of American military power.
    For another person who gets it REALLY right, try reading Andrew Bacevich’s latest book, “The Limits of Power- The End of American Exceptionalism.”
    I understand he was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers, and if so, it should be archived.


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