Most Powerful Woman in the World

Fareed Zakaria of CNN interviewed Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico on his Sunday GPS show. Zakaria asked Nooyi to respond to her reputation as the world’s most powerful woman.  She seemed embarrassed by the title, but remarked that she works very hard, often sacrificing precious family time.  The interview moved along fairly tamely until it came to the question of healthy food and the growing American problem of obesity.  As you may know, Pepsico is a snack food conglomerate.  Their products include Pepsi, Gatorade and other sugary drinks and Frito Lay, known for salty chips.  She was not at all apologetic and gave what I thought to be an incredibly silly but revealing  answer which to me was a tacit admission that Pepsico is more concerned with profit, than juvenile diabetes or clogged arteries.  She characterized Pepsico’s products as “20% good for you and 80% fun for you”.  Said another way, what’s good for you is not fun for you, and what’s fun for you may not be good for your health. It sounded like a clever marketing pitch to skirt the question, but it does show that Pepsico is 80% about profit. Once the 20% becomes more profitable, things will change, but this is likely to take a long time.

30 years ago, I heard Ralph Nader speak at the University of Arkansas.  He described a hot dog as a pink missile and railed against snack food, suggesting that the vending machines could be stocked with healthier food.  Fast forward to 2011, and not much has changed.  The majority of stuff I see in the snack aisles at the supermarket and in vending machines are sugary drinks, candy bars and salty chips.  Just the other day I was delighted to see a bag of sunflower seeds in the vending machine where I work.  I was disappointed to learn that the seed shells were coated in a powdery salt.  I guess seeds qualify as “good”, and with all the salt also “fun”.  But those seeds were unsafe at any speed and not even fit for the birds, who seem, by and large, more fit than an average American.

Simple Plan to Balance the U.S. Budget

It’s hard to believe the U.S. government nearly shutdown over a dispute of a mere 360 million dollars, which is but a fraction of the nearly 3.7 trillion dollar U.S. budget.  What was the sticking point? An ideological issue over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  Ultra conservative Republicans insisted that it would be preferable to shut down the government, than to continue funding women’s health initiatives.  I’m surprised it didn’t also come down to funding for National Public Radio, and maybe it did, who knows? In a compromise between the Speaker and the President at the last minute, the Republicans dropped their attack on Planned Parenthood for now anyway, in exchange for nearly 40 billion in the 60 billion in cuts it wanted, short of the 100 billion Tea Party members had pushed for in the House. The President apparently also agreed to put the Planned Parenthood issue to a vote later.  By all accounts, the Republicans do not have the votes in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood or NPR for that matter.

Who came out the winner in this heated budget process that almost shut the government down? Speaker Boehner? President Obama? Their negotiating teams?  The Tea Party?  Republicans? Democrats? The American people?  Actually, I think there are no winners.  That it took so long to come to an agreement, and that the deal had been conditioned on social issues, signals that some lawmakers care more about social issues, even as they claim their priorities are all about reducing the budget deficit.  If it is all really about the budget deficit, why not talk in serious terms about cutting defense spending, ending our involvement in 3 wars and raising revenues.  Why not debate the issue of corporations paying their fair share of taxes.  Why not discuss a tax increase on the wealthiest who can afford it and would feel it the least?

The Republicans are beginning to learn that it is difficult to govern with a majority, especially when the tent is so large. The Tea Party is undoubtedly furious that Speaker Boehner caved in on their demands.  The American people are disgusted by both parties and with the politicians they elected to office who have not made good on their campaign promises.  Conservatives and Progressives alike are none too happy.  It feels like the only moderate out there is the President, which is why he will ultimately be reelected.  Looks like his most serious challenges could come from two reality show stars.

Conservative James Baker, former Reagan Chief of Staff and Treasury Secretary who also served as Secretary of State for Bush Senior, said on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show GPS, that the U.S. must cut spending and raise revenue.  He also hinted that we would have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling so that we don’t default on our financial obligations. And I completely agree.

Yes we have a spending problem, but we also have a significant revenue problem.  Here’s my budget plan:  cut defense, eliminate corporate loopholes, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reduce military involvement beyond an advisory capacity in Libya; raise revenue by legalizing all undocumented workers to increase the tax base, which would help keep Social Security solvent, increase corporate taxes – (we have to stop corporate welfare handouts), simplify the tax code (maybe put the supercomputer Watson on the case) and never privatize anything ever because it’ll require a bailout in the end.  We need to learn from our mistakes, Paul Ryan.