Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill, this is the right week for it: The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend. Given that his members arealready talking about breaking ranks, McConnell may find himself eager to get this kabuki dance over with a little bit early.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Moreover, the financial reform bill gives regulators the power to pick winners and losers, institutionalizing their ability to decide “which firms to rescue or close, and which creditors to reward and how.” Does anyone doubt that firms with the most lobbyists and the biggest campaign donations will be the ones who get seats in the lifeboat? The president is trying to convince us that he’s taking on the Wall Street “fat cats,” but firms like Goldman Sachs are happy with federal regulation because, as one of their lobbyists recently stated, “We partner with regulators.”
Sometimes it’s hard not to admire Sarah Palin. You need to have a pair of iron church bells swinging between your knees to pull off a crazy line like this, and she does it almost effortlessly. If you’re scoring at home, the idea here is that banks like Goldman actually want this regulatory bill because it will allow them to “partner with regulators,” i.e. team up with the government, to dominate the economy. This is despite the fact that Washington is currently flooded with financial services industry lobbyists who, in an attempt to kill this bill, are practically lugging suitcases full of money around to throw at the likes of Ben Nelson and Mitch McConnell.
The awesome thing about this is that it’s almost guaranteed to work with the people Palin is targeting. The Democrats here are going to suffer, deservedly so, for having taken so much money in the past from Goldman and banks like Goldman. That fact now allows transparent bullshitters like Palin — who incidentally supported the bank bailouts — to credibly argue that this Regulatory Reform bill is an industry creation
What we have here is the GOP throwing everything against the wall to delay the process, again. Ryan flat out says he wants reform in the derivatives market. But where was Ryan when HR 4173 was going through the House of Representatives? Just like where was Ryan when Health Care was being formed? After the fact this guy has plenty of ideas. But when an actual bill is being prepared he is absent.
Representative Paul Ryan is now going on television saying that he wants a market based trigger for resolution based on Hart-Zingales’ model of how to tear down a large systemically risky firm. Within seconds, he is also calling the Dodd Bill a bailout bill, and a bill that picks winners because a resolution authority fund would give out haircuts, and he thinks we need to do bankruptcy on large financial firms.
We’ve been through this before, but Hart-Zingales is a resolution authority based reform for how to deal with a large systemically failing financial firm like Lehman Brothers. This is not bankruptcy for large systemically failing firms.
Bankruptcy reform would mean that we wait until the firm can’t make a payment before declaring it bankrupt, and then having a bankruptcy court handle the wind down of the firm. The Great Depression taught us that waiting until a person can’t access their checking account is a bad timing device to declare a commercial bank failed, and as such we have the FDIC wind down a failing bank earlier. Lehman’s bankruptcy judge declared: “This is the most momentous bankruptcy hearing I’ve ever sat through. It can never be deemed precedent for future cases. It’s hard for me to imagine a similar emergency”, so I think the idea holds. Resolution authority does the same exact thing for shadow banks and large, highly-leveraged and interconnected financial firms.
The question is when to pull the trigger. Hart-Zingales wants a market-based trigger based on the price of a CDS contract. If you look at the past few years and think that conclusion of AIG-FP and Magnetar is that the price of a CDS contract is a great predictor of default rates (has an expected value of 0), and that this won’t incentivize market participates with well defined goals to force a profitable banking run, run with it.
Hart-Zingales soft-pedal it, but their description: “and issuing equity did not improve its situation, the regulator would replace the institution’s CEO with a receiver or trustee. This person would be required to recapitalize and sell the company, guaranteeing in the process that shareholders were wiped out and creditors — while not wiped out — received a ‘haircut,’ meaning that the value of what they were owed would be reduced by some set percentage…this regulatory receivership would be similar to a mild form of bankruptcy” is exactly what the Dodd Bill and Obama’s White Paper are trying to do.
Monday, April 26, 2010
No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Become the Green Tea Party.
I’d be happy to design the T-shirt logo and write the manifesto. The logo is easy. It would show young Americans throwing barrels of oil imported from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia into Boston Harbor.
The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The BCS runs college football, not the NCAA, so there is no NCAA title for the NCAA to possibly strip. USC won the BCS trophy, which is awarded by the USA Today coaches' poll. Can USA Today revoke USC's title? USC also won the Associated Press trophy in 2004, which could lead to AP breaking news: The AP is reporting today that it is stripping USC of its national title, according to AP sources.
The Republican governor of Mississippi keeps a large portrait of the University Greys, the Confederate rifle company that suffered 100 percent casualties at Gettysburg, on a wall not far from a Stars and Bars Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis. Then there's the man himself. Rather than walking across the street from his office to the state capitol, he rides a hundred or so yards in the back seat of a large SUV, air conditioning on full blast.
Barbour warned the aide that if he "persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks."
Again, I simply can't imagine the Republicans being crazy enough to nominate this man. If they're going to nominate a terrible nominee, they might as well go with one they really love, like Sarah Palin. But Obama-Barbour would be a hell of a thing to watch, wouldn't it?
Monday, April 19, 2010
Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.
One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other,placing the men in separate nursing homes. Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care
Their findings suggest that the tea party is essentially the reappearance of an old anti-government far right that has always been with us and accounts for about one-fifth of the country. The Times reported that tea party supporters "tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45." This is the populism of the privileged.
Tea party backers are far more likely than others to describe their views as "very conservative," and are decidedly more inclined than the rest of us to believe that too much is made of the problems facing black people.
Saying this invites immediate denunciations from defenders of those who bring guns to rallies, threaten violence to "take our country back" and mouth old slogans about states' rights and the Confederacy. So let's be clear: Opposition to the president is driven by many factors that have nothing to do with race. But race is definitely part of what's going on.
Here is the poll question in its entirety: "In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?"
Twenty-eight percent of all Americans -- and just 19 percent of those who are not tea party loyalists -- answered "too much." But among tea party supporters, the figure is 52 percent. Tea partiers are almost three times as likely as the rest of us to say that too much attention is being paid to the problems of blacks.
Among all Americans, 11 percent say that the Obama administration's policies favor blacks over whites; 25 percent of tea party sympathizers say this. Again, more is going on here than race, but race is in the picture.
Tea party enthusiasts also consistently side with the better-off against the poor, putting them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that "providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor," 73 percent of tea party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that "the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit." Only 17 percent of tea party supporters took this view.
And this must be the first "populist" movement ever driven by a television network: 63 percent of the tea party folks say they most watch Fox News "for information about politics and current events," compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.
The right-wing fifth of the American population deserves news coverage like everyone else, and Fox is perfectly free to pander to its own viewers. What makes no sense is allowing a sliver of opinion out of touch with, yes, the "real" America to dominate the media and distort our political discourse.
Friday, April 16, 2010
You may recall that during the most perilous months of 2008 and early 2009, there was a vigorous debate about how the government should fix the financial system. Some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times’s own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system.
They argued that Wall Street was occupied by the walking dead, and that no matter how much money we threw at the banks, they would eventually topple the system all over again and cause a domino effect worldwide.
I certainly never said anything like that, and I don’t think Nouriel did either. First of all, I never called for “nationalizing the entire banking system” — I wanted the government to take temporary full ownership of a few weak banks, mainly Citigroup and possibly B of A. I defy Sorkin to find any examples of me calling for a total takeover.
I think the right thing to do is to simply acknowledge that, in trying to quickly summarize Krugman’s nuanced position, Sorkin over-simplified and got it wrong. Krugman did not call for the nationalization of the entire banking system, and, unless Sorkin can produce a citation to the contrary, he did not say it was necessary because otherwise the banks would fail again and cause a worldwide domino effect.
Sorkin said he is going back to his editors to discuss whether some sort of clarification is needed.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Lee Fang provides a more recent look at "the beast" in action, applying its high intellectual standards:– Heritage On Romney’s Individual Mandate: “Not an unreasonable position, and one that is clearly consistent with conservative values.” [Heritage, 1/28/06]– Heritage On President Obama’s Individual Mandate: “Both unprecedented and unconstitutional.” [Heritage, 12/9/09]– Heritage On Romney’s Insurance Exchange: An “innovative mechanism to promote real consumer choice.” [Heritage, 4/20/06]– Heritage On President Obama’s Insurance Exchange: Creates a “de facto public option” by “grow[ing]” government control over healthcare.” [Heritage, 3/30/10]– Heritage On Romney’s Medicaid Expansion: Reduced “the total cost to taxpayers” by taking people out of the “uncompensated care pool.” [Heritage, 1/28/06]– Heritage On President Obama’s Medicaid Expansion: Expands a “broken entitlement program,” providing a “low-quality, poorly functioning program.” [Heritage,3/30/10]
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Then again, maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong perspective. Would I rather clean army latrines with my tongue, or would I rather do what Brooks does for a living, working as a professional groveler and flatterer who three times a week has to come up with new ways to elucidate for his rich readers how cosmically just their lifestyles are? If sucking up to upper-crust yabos was my actual job and I had to do it to keep the electricity on in my house, then yes, I might look at that as work.
But it strikes me that David Brooks actually enjoys his chosen profession. In fact, he strikes me as the kind of person who even in his spare time would pay a Leona Helmsley lookalike a thousand dollars to take a shit on his back. And here he is saying that the reason the poor and the middle classes are struggling is because they don’t work hard enough. Is this guy the best, or what? Does it get any better than this?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
"One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents,"said Newt Gingrich, echoing the latest GOP talking point. Rep. Paul Ryan joined him, saying the IRS will get "16,000 agents to police this new mandate." But is it true? Well, no.
FactCheck.org gives you the rundown here, but just for kicks, let's track how an estimate becomes spin becomes a lie becomes a sound bite. First, the estimate: The CBO predicted that costs related to the Affordable Care Act would "probably include an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years for administrative costs of the Internal Revenue Service." This money, incidentally, isn't to audit people or go door-to-door enforcing the individual mandate. It's primarily to give subsidies to qualifying small businesses and individuals. But put that aside for the moment.
On March 18, the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee put out a news release saying the "IRS may need to hire as many as 16,500 additional auditors, agents and other employees." As you might expect, "may" does some heavy lifting here. First, Republicans are using $10 billion, not $5 billion, as the number beneath their estimate. Second, as FactCheck.org says, the GOP "simply divided the spending (which they figured could be $1.5 billion per year once the law is fully effective) by the current average payroll cost for the entire IRS workforce."
In other words: No money for desks, office equipment, rent or anything else. Every possible dollar is hiring "IRS agents." And it doesn't account for annual raises. Oh, and before I forget, "agents" is also there to mislead. As FactCheck.org notes, "there’s a huge difference between an IRS revenue agent — who calls on taxpayers and conducts face-to-face audits — and the workers who make up the bulk of IRS employees. Those who work at the IRS include clerks, accountants, computer programmers, telephone help line workers and other support staff. In fact, IRS revenue agents make up only 15 percent of the IRS workforce."
So let's go back to Gingrich's original sentence. "One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents," he said. First, that's not a "thing in the health bill." It's an extrapolation from a CBO report. Second, the word "is" is wrong, as even the original GOP spin only used the word "may." Third, the number 16,000 is wrong. Fourth, the word "agents" is wrong. But if the statement gets no credit for truth, it's at least efficient: Not just anyone could pack four falsehoods into 13 words. But Gingrich, now, he's a professional.
With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth. He gets $13 million a year from print (books plus the ten-issue-a-year magazineFusion). Radio brings in $10 million. Digital (including a newsletter, the ad-supported Glennbeck.com and merchandise) pulls in $4 million. Speaking and events are good for $3 million and television for $2 million.
Self Proclaimed Climate Denier Blankenship, Apparently Believes Safety Regulations Are Government Lies as Well.
The country's highest-paid coal executive, Blankenship is a villain ripped straight from the comic books: a jowly, mustache-sporting, union-busting coal baron who uses his fortune to bend politics to his will. He recently financed a $3.5 million campaign to oust a state Supreme Court justice who frequently ruled against his company, and he hung out on the French Riviera with another judge who was weighing an appeal by Massey. "Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office," Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia once observed. "He would be twice as accountable and half as feared."
News of the nation’s worst coal-mining disaster in a quarter century — a methane explosion that killed at least 25 miners in West Virginia — has been accompanied by revelations that the mine in question, belonging to a subsidiary of Massey Energy, has an egregious safety record.
57 times in the last month, the mine was cited for safety violations — including for failing to properly ventilate explosive methane.
It seems this was less an accident than an accident waiting to happen.
this extreme pessimism about the economy’s ability to live with cap and trade — is very much at odds with typical conservative rhetoric. After all, modern conservatives express a deep, almost mystical confidence in the effectiveness of market incentives — Ronald Reagan liked to talk about the “magic of the marketplace.” They believe that the capitalist system can deal with all kinds of limitations, that technology, say, can easily overcome any constraints on growth posed by limited reserves of oil or other natural resources. And yet now they submit that this same private sector is utterly incapable of coping with a limit on overall emissions, even though such a cap would, from the private sector’s point of view, operate very much like a limited supply of a resource, like land. Why don’t they believe that the dynamism of capitalism will spur it to find ways to make do in a world of reduced carbon emissions? Why do they think the marketplace loses its magic as soon as market incentives are invoked in favor of conservation?
This is a wonderful article framing the issue of Climate Change in a real world economic context. Give it a read you will not be sorry you did.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I’m getting a lot of this now with the Jefferson County business. The above writer, an intermittently coherent fellow named Richard Fernandez from a thing called Pajamas Media, wrote the excerpted passage in response to a line in my piece about JP Morgan paying Goldman, Sachs $3 million to back out of the Jefferson County deal. The full quote, which includes in the middle a passage from that “Looting Main St.” piece, reads like this:
So how would one keep the tragedy of Jefferson County from being replayed everywhere? Taibbi wonders why no one stopped the train wreck from proceeding.
That such a blatant violation of anti-trust laws took place and neither JP Morgan nor Goldman have been prosecuted for it is yet another mystery of the current financial crisis. “This is an open-and-shut case of anti-competitive behavior,” says Taylor, the former regulator.
Now there’s an idea. Maybe someone can stop Wall Street from corrupting the politicians by putting the politicians in charge of Wall Street. Find someone from Chicago who can do it. Or, if that doesn’t work, abolishing capitalism will get results so that in the first place there’s no money to corrupt anyone. Either more government or no business. That’s sure to work in the same sense that you can avoid cancer entirely by having all your organs removed.
So according to Fernandez, by wondering aloud why two giant mega-companies were not prosecuted for engaging in blatantly anticapitalist behavior, I’m actually advocating the abolition of capitalism. Where do these people come from?
Even after all the things that went on in the past few years, there are still people who defend the sort of fraud and robbery that went on in Jefferson County. Either that or they try to slap on a new take on the story to make it fit the same old red/blue, left/right narrative and distract people from the point, which is that this kind of corruption is a complex symbiosis of public and private interests that does not fit into the simplistic Fox vs. Air America storyline. It is not a liberal/conservative issue — this is about oligarchy, not partisanship — but there are people who insist on trying to make it into a partisan story.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Hold on to your hats. At a town hall meeting in Oklahoma City last week, staunch conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, disparaged Fox News and told a constituent her fears about the health care law were unfounded.
When a woman in the audience asked Coburn if it was illegal for the government to jail citizens for not complying with the new health care law, Coburn responded by blaming TV news, and Fox News in particular, for that false rumor:
"The intention is not to put anybody in jail," Coburn said. "That makes for good TV news on Fox, but that isn't the intention."
Later, when his audience started to boo at the mention of Pelosi, Coburn stopped them.
"Come on now... how many of you all have met her? She's a nice person," Coburn said. "Just because somebody disagrees with you, doesn't mean they're not a good person."
"Don't catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody's no good," Coburn added.
Coburn urged audience members to widen their points of view by reading and watching different media outlets, not just the ones they agree with.
"Don't just watch Fox News or CNN, watch them both," Coburn said. He said he read both The Washington Post and The New York Times -- plus The Wall Street Journal -- and urged his audience to do likewise. "Listen to the other side, because what it does, it makes you a better person."
Monday, April 5, 2010
The unemployment rate in Reagan's second year - a full year after his tax cuts for the top 1% - rose to a post WW2 high of 10.8%. According to Gallup, only one third approved of the way he was handling the economy, with the deficit exploding due to his tax cuts benefiting the wealthy.
At the beginning of '83, his approval rating fell to a low of 35%.
The economy, and Reagan's approval, only started to improve in his third year.
01/1981 - Unemployment rate 7.5% .... Reagan sworn in.
02/1981 - 7.4%
03/1981 - 7.4%
04/1981 - 7.2%
05/1981 - 7.5%
06/1981 - 7.5%
07/1981 - 7.2%
08/1981 - 7.4% *Reagan cuts taxes for top 1% & says unemployment will DROP to 6.9%.
09/1981 - 7.6%
10/1981 - 7.9%
11/1981 - 8.3%
12/1981 - 8.5%
01/1982 - 8.6%
02/1982 - 8.9%
03/1982 - 9.0%
04/1982 - 9.3%
05/1982 - 9.4%
06/1982 - 9.6%
07/1982 - 9.8%
08/1982 - 9.8%
09/1982 - 10.1%
10/1982 - 10.4%
11/1982 - 10.8%
But let's be honest: everything about Michael Steele's tenure running the RNC is about race.
Michael Steele got the job for one reason: Republicans needed someone who could be the point man for bashing Barack Obama while being immune not only from charges of racism but any discussion of the fact that the current GOP is a party made up pretty much 100% of white folks. As is common with Republicans, Steele is the mirror image, ersatz Obama. Whatever else you can say about the 44th president, in the 2008 campaign and to a great degree still, he was a phenomenon, a meteoric political figure whose power on the political stage was much greater than the sum of his parts.
In different ways race played into the Obama phenomenon. But Republicans were always basically full of it and barking up the wrong tree when they tried to claim either that Democrats picked Barack Obama because he was black or that he was winning because he was black. So what did the Republicans do: turn around and hire someone to lead their party pretty much for the sole reason that he was black. As is so often the case, the critics of racial progress, because they don't comprehend it, resort to a parody of it.
Steele was hired because he was black. And the other truth is that now he can't be fired, in significant measure, because he's black. Because canning Steele now would only drive home the reality that Republicans were trying to paper over, fairly clumsily, when they hired him in the first place. So Republicans are stuck with his myriad goofs and #pressfails and incompetent management and all the rest because of a set of circumstances entirely of their own making.