Friday, February 27, 2009
Jindal admits he was not present when the now deceased sheriff was yelling at the Federal bureaucratic buffoon on the telephone demanding that the Fed arrest the sheriff and the heroic exorcist and then Congressman on the scene to save those stranded while the full force and weight of the Federal Government demanded the storm victims be left to die. But, Jindal insists that while he was no where to be found in the storms aftermath, the now dead sheriff did tell him the story days or weeks later of the Fed insisting storm victims be left to die over paperwork issues.
As luck would have it, the dead sheriff is not commenting.
These are the worst kind of lies peddled repeatedly by Republicans. Portraying honest, hardworking Federal employees as criminally negligent buffoons for no other reason than to support their world view and move their political agenda. If only there had been no government at all, a floatilla of bass fisherman could have had the whole mess cleaned up in a matter of days if not hours.
If you have to make up stories to justify your world view, you really need to rethink that view.
Stick a fork in him, Jindal is done.
UPDATE: This story has been evolving over time. TPM has the full rundown.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
As you might have noticed, the GOP line to defend low taxes on the richest 2% of Americans is to call them taxes on small business. Expect to hear this endlessly this year.
Per Matt Yglesias DeMint was out today selling that message,
It looks like he’s gonna try to get a lot of that revenue from raising payroll taxes on upper income and that sounds good but basically that affects small businesses and their ability to hire people. So I just think it shows a lack of understanding of the private sector. A lot of people make — who are reporting a quarter million dollars — you know, I’ve done that before in my small business, and I was actually taking home like 50 or 40.This is either a lie, or the Senator and possibly his tax preparer are idiots.
We only pay income taxes on our net income, what the IRS calls our 'adjusted gross income' after all deductions or what Sen DeMint would call take home pay.
How is a small business persons $250,000 in income any more sacred that an executive earning a $250,000 salary?
The WH and congressional Dems need to hit back hard on this. I hope they are up to it.
JIM LEHRER: Now that, of course, was Gov. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, making the Republican response. David, how well do you think he did?
DAVID BROOKS: Uh, not so well. You know, I think Bobby Jindal is a very promising politician, and I oppose the stimulus because I thought it was poorly drafted. But to come up at this moment in history with a stale "government is the problem," "we can't trust the federal government" - it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill, but that idea that we're just gonna - that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that - In a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say "government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending," it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is. There's an intra-Republican debate. Some people say the Republican Party lost its way because they got too moderate. Some people say they got too weird or too conservative. He thinks they got too moderate, and so he's making that case. I think it's insane, and I just think it's a disaster for the party. I just think it's unfortunate right now.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Thanks to Matt, we have the formal answer in this handy "State of the Union" FAQ taken from the Congressional Research Service.
The past four Presidents (Ronald Reagan in 1981, George H. W. Bush in 1989, William Clinton in 1993, and George W. Bush in 2001) have chosen not to give an official State of the Union Messagethe year they were first inaugurated, having just previously delivered a keynote inaugural address. In each instance their first speech to a joint session of Congress closely followed their inauguration, but was not officially categorized as a "State of the Union Message".This historic precedent works out especially well this year allowing the POTUS to avoid completely the traditional "The State of the Union is Strong" introductory sentence.
Here is Rupert Murdoch's statement,
"Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted," said the statement from Murdoch, who is also chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, which owns the paper.Would the cartoon be any less offensive if the victim had been a person? I think reasonable people consider it bad form to editorialize -- by cartoon or word -- the murder of politicians with whom the paper disagrees. "They'll have to find someone else to lead the next invasion"? I don't think so.
"I can assure you -- without a doubt -- that the only intent of that cartoon was to mock a badly written piece of legislation.
"It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such. We all hold the readers of the New York Post in high regard, and I promise you that we will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Here are some highlights I gleaned from the article.
The estimated $75B comes from Tarp II.
The plan allows Fannie and Freddie -- which have been fully nationalized -- to refinance the mortgages they have already acquired from lenders to 105% of home value (previously they could only refinance 80% of home value)to those otherwise credit worthy. The purpose is to allow refinancing for people whose equity had disappeared with falling home prices. This portion will have little costs as program costs will be offset by foreclosure savings.
The plan provides for the reducing of mortgage payments for 'at risk borrowers' in two stages to get to 31% of income. The lender must take the full loss to adjust the payment down to 38%, at which time the Gov't will 'pay half the difference' to reduce the payment to 31%. Lenders will receive incentives to participate in the program. These are an up-front payment of $1,000 for making modifications, and $1,000 per year for three years, as long as the borrower remains current. In addition, the government will pay $1,000 annually toward the outstanding principal balance for up to five years if the borrower remains current. This is where the bulk of the costs will be incurred.
All recipients of TARP funds will be required to participate, which includes the nations largest mortgage lenders including Bank of America (who bought Countrywide), Wells Fargo, Chase and Citimortgage.
Finally, the admin will seek legislation to allow bankruptcy courts to modify primary residence mortgages.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
When you take a lose up on appeal, asking a court to overturn a formal decision, you need a good story to tell to the reviewing court about how you got screwed. Purely technical appeals aren't very sexy to a reviewing court which doesn't want to make a habit of reversing the decisions of fact finders. This is true when appealing a jury verdict against your client or appealing an election.
If Coleman hoped to get a court to overturn the MN canvasing board official count, he needs to show to the court, that he has been robbed of a senate seat. And Coleman's lawyers are smart people who certainly know this. Yet Coleman has spent weeks with witnesses who admit to having forged either their absentee application, or the application of a family member, or had a spouse complete their absentee ballot for them.
Now apparently, Coleman advocates for the tossing out the entire election -- an extraordinary remedy which never going to happen.
So what's Coleman's real agenda? It seems pretty clear at this point, given the testimony they have presented, that the sole goal is to deny the Democrats an extra Senate vote for as long as possible, the citizens of MN be damned. Surely the people of MN must be really fed up, and this can't be helping the interests of the MN GOP.
While the plans have not yet been fully revealed, Marc Ambinder does a nice job explaining the implications of Geithner's stress test.
One of the biggest problems in the financial crisis are Zombie Banks -- the walking dead.
These are banks which are insolvent and no amount of additional capital is going to save them. But these Zombie Banks are feeding on the TARP funds bleeding the fund dry and will never be able to lend again in any significant way because they need all the capital they can get just to keep the doors open.
Geithner's stress test intends to identify the walking dead and presumably put them out of their misery by liquidating them in an orderly fashion. And some of these Zombies are mega banks.
The market understands the implications of these stress tests (especially to shareholders of the liquitdated), thus the sell-off.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I'm traveling the rest of this week, but will be blogging has time permits.
Look for me on Twitter and if you don't have Twitter, it's really time you joined the rest of us in the future.
No, seriously, don't be a twit. Get Twitter now. It's free. Think of it as Facebook for adults.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that George Will is a smart guy. Everyone expects Fred Barnes to lie, but why does someone like Will manufacture data?
In his February 15 column in the WaPo, Will makes the bold assertion that "According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979."
Problem is that the U of I's ACRC has made no such claim, and they resent Will and the WaPo saying they did.
We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.Phone calls to George Will and the WaPo seeking comment have not been returned.
It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.
TPM takes apart more of his claims here.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Perhaps most credible to Republicans is the case being made by former Reagan advisor and Bush I Treasury economist Bruce Bartlett.
Writing in Forbes, Bartlett argues that the real lesson of the New Deal was that FDR and Congress didn't spend enough to stimulate the economy.
After a lengthy analysis of the New Deal policies and deficient, Bartlett concludes,
Republicans claim that today's fiscal stimulus is doomed to fail because the deficits of the 1930s didn't end the Great Depression. "We know for sure the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell asserted on Feb. 6.
The implication seems to be that the economy would have recovered faster from the Great Depression if the budget had been balanced. But as my calculations demonstrate, the true failure of the New Deal was that deficits were much too small, not too large.
Ironically, Republicans implicitly acknowledge the truth of this when they argue that "the only thing that brought us out of the depression was World War II," as Sen. John Ensign explained on Feb. 7.
Yet Republicans conveniently overlook the fact that it was massively larger budget deficits--which averaged close to 20% of GDP from 1941 to 1945--that were the principal contribution of the war to economic recovery.
Starkman places primary blame on decimated newsrooms beginning as far back as 2002 and the lack of Federal oversight providing tips to reporters. But these explainations are unsatisfying. While cutbacks have clearly taken place, the NYTs and WSJ have hardly folded up shop and gone away.
The real problem is that the financial reporters and editors (in print and on TV) had a sycophantic worship of those there were covering. Starkman certainly touches on this, first noting, for example "Wall Street coverage tilted toward personality-driven stories, not deconstructing balance sheets or figuring out risks." But the reporting community's worship and lust for access went much further and allowed those they were covering to co-opt them to further their own agendas. Starkman provides some examples,
Increasingly, business coverage has addressed its audience as investors rather than citizens, a subtle but powerful shift in perspective that has led to some curious choices. The Journal, for example, at times seemed to strain to find someone other than Wall Street to blame for the mortgage mess: A December 2007 story announced that borrower fraud "goes a long way toward explaining why mortgage defaults and foreclosures are rocking financial institutions," though no such evidence exists. Another Journal story last March accused "about half"of foreclosed-upon borrowers of trashing their homes. The source for the "half" bit: a PR firm working for real estate clients. Forbes, meanwhile, in a misbegotten investigation last March of Martin Eakes, the head of the Center for Responsible Lending and one of the few heroes of the subprime mess, suggested Eakes had fought to ban abusive lending in order to help the tiny nonprofit credit union he runs. Seriously.Ultimately, the press was corrupted just like the regulators worshiping the billions being made and losing sight of what they were supposed to be doing.
There's no rule that says Obama can't take his fights to the people while still talking with the GOP for consensus. He can't allow the opposition to be defining his legislation 24/7 on TV while he sits back and waits for compromise (or not) at the Capital.
But let's be honest; this is just about appearances. The GOP has no intention of supporting any legislation from the WH or the Dems in Congress. There plan is simple and obvious: vote no on everything, and hope for failure (and in the absence of failure, call it failed anyway) and try to say 'I told you so' at election time. With the GOP country be damned, they care only about power.
As Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias observe, the filibuster was never intended to be automatic for every vote in the Senate.
Some will of course charge hypocrisy, as the chart shows, the filibuster has gotten out of control, and some reform is in order. Matt, who has always opposed the filibuster out right, does a nice job briefly outlining the history and suggests an abolition that doesn't take effect for 4 years to avoid allegations of a power grab.
I don't share Matt's zeal for abolition. There is a place for the filibuster in the Senate that makes it worth keeping. However, it is historically indisputable that it was never the intent that all bills be automatically filibustered by default. An obvious solution would be to require an actual filibuster on major bills, like the stimulus. Of course, do actually force the opposition to filibuster would require the flaccid Harry Reid to grow a pair of balls and show some leadership and that's never going to happen.
Frank Rich looks at his disconnect not just with the media but inside the GOP as well. ("Obama had 'all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,' declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. ")
And Rich sees the GOP hopelessly addicted to the Kool-aide,
Overdosing on this culture can be fatal. Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started. That obliviousness gives the president the opening to win more ambitious policy victories than last week’s. Having checked the box on attempted bipartisanship, Obama can now move in for the kill.
A useful template for the current political dynamic can be found in one of the McCain campaign’s more memorable pratfalls. Last fall, it was the Beltway mantra that Obama was doomed with all those working-class Rust Belt Democrats who’d flocked to Hillary in the primaries. The beefy, beer-drinking, deer-hunting white guys — incessantly interviewed in bars and diners — would never buy the skinny black intellectual. Nor would the “dead-ender” Hillary women. The McCain camp not only bought into this received wisdom, but bet the bank on it, pouring resources into states like Michigan and Wisconsin before abandoning them and doubling down on Pennsylvania in the stretch. The sucker-punched McCain lost all three states by percentages in the double digits.
Brownstein reports on his interview here.
Obama's views on bipartisanship are pretty remarkable for this day and age. I've constantly been frustrated by his lack of aggressiveness only for him to have come out victorious in his steady long vision approach.
Yet while promising to continue to seek peace with congressional Republicans, Obama also made clear he's prepared for the alternative. "I am an eternal optimist [but] that doesn't mean I'm a sap," he said pointedly. "So my goal is to assume the best but prepare for a whole range of different possibilities in terms of how Congress reacts."
This is the best primer I've seen not just to understand the stimulus issues, but on Obama's secondary agenda to modernize the US economy and move it into the 21st Century.
Regarding the size of the stimulus, consider this,
Growth is the only way for a government to pay off its debts in a relatively quick and painless fashion, allowing tax revenues to increase without tax rates having to rise. That is essentially what happened in the years after World War II. When the war ended, the federal government’s debt equaled 120 percent of the gross domestic product (more than twice as high as its likely level by the end of next year). The rapid economic growth of the 1950s and ’60s — more than 4 percent a year, compared with 2.5 percent in this decade — quickly whittled that debt away. Over the coming 25 years, if growth could be lifted by just one-tenth of a percentage point a year, the extra tax revenue would completely pay for an $800 billion stimulus package.The issue then becomes what will drive the economic growth necessary to retire stimulus debt and that is where the modernization of the economy comes into play.
Read and understand Leonhardt. You won't feel literate in discussing Obama's plans until you do.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
In the same poll, the Congressional GOP enjoy a 31% approval rating 17 points behind the Congressional Dems.
As others have pointed out, this should not a surprise since Gregg's refusal to vote at all while Secretary designate was effectively a vote no. But I never the less just find this whole matter bizarre.
After all, Gregg wanted the job and asked to be considered. NH has become very blue and he did not have a chance at re-election and he knew it.
Was Gregg a GOP Trojan Horse to rig the census who simply lost his nerve?
Friday, February 13, 2009
"Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President's agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama's key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart".So Gregg wanted the job and then blindsides the WH and upstages them with a presser when Gregg finds out his policies will be subordinate to that of the President like ever other Commerce Secretary since the Department's formation in 1903.
As the frog learned, this is a scorpion's nature.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It's hard not to think that Gregg's withdrawal, with the grumbling about the census and the stimulus, was not timed to cause the most damage possible to the Obama administration. Releasing the statement just as Obama took the stage in Peoria was clearly designed to undermine the President's event. The fact he scheduled a presser only seems to confirm it. The classy exit would have been to wait til tomorrow afternoon to quietly bow out. Basically Gregg decided not just to politely decline, but rather to blow shit up and burn the bridge behind him. Do not think this portends good things for the wider political climate.Matt Cooper reports that the WH was completely blindsided by Judd's withdrawal.
If the larger GOP strategy can be describe as putting all of their chips on 'FAIL', this has to be seen as a significant addition to that pile, no?"
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Evidently, the GOP House leadership didn't create the video but someone took an old AFSCME PSA and recorded a new, profane and insulting voice-over.
Finally, in response to criticism, the ever classy Cantor has thrown his spokesman under the bus who falls on his sword here.
The NYTs says this morning that they want to pay the money back early so they can be left alone. And as best I can discern from the whining, this is supposed to be a bad thing -- they we taxpayers get repaid early.
Nothing short of a full and unqualified apology from the Secretary of the Treasury will make them take more taxpayer money at bargain terms that none of us will ever get.
And absent that apology they are giving all the money back,.....except they can't.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Notorious NBA fan and disinterested MLB observer Matt Yglesias sums up this issue perfectly,
"Haven’t we reached the point where we should just assume that back then all the players were using something? After all, what kind of big-time baseball star would willingly eschew a performance-enhancing substance whose use was widespread among his teammates and competitors and which there was no serious policy in place to prevent? It would have to be someone who wasn’t taking his baseball skills all that seriously.
At the end of the day, simply accepting this reality would, I think, wind up doing a lot to make people feel better about the game. The steroid era was an unfortunate episode, driven by bad policy decisions. But that’s what it was—the sports drug policy made near-universal use of performance enhancing substances essentially inevitable. There’s no reason to look on what players did during that period as grave personal ethical failings—they were following the logic of the system. It was a bad logic of a bad system, and that’s why change was necessary."
In a normal world, no one would think anything of a state governor introducing the President of the United States on visit to the governor's state. But in the highly partisan modern Republican party, this seems to be remarkable.
Let us know if you hear of any criticism of Gov Crist from the right (Limbaugh doesn't count) for his appearance with the POTUS.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Justice Ginsburg is the only women on the court so it's safe to say that she would be replaced by a woman. Matt Cooper has a short list,
Among the possible female candidates the president could consider are Elena Kagan, the Harvard Law School dean who has been named to be solicitor general. Nancy Gertner, a district court judge in Massachusetts. If Obama's interested in returning to the historic tradition of appointing a politician to the bench, the possibilities include Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan and a Harvard Law School graduate and former state attorney general. Janet Napolitano is the former attorney general and governor of Arizona and now Secretary of Homeland Security. Diane Wood is a federal judge in Chicago. Sonia Sotomayer, a federal judge in California, if named, would be the first Hispanic justice.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
This is a book I will pre-order from my local independent bookseller.
In a move that is all class, MO GOP spokeswoman Tina Hervey compared the Sec of State to Caroline Kennedy -- who has never held elected office -- and to be clear had this to say,
"She's coming from a well-known, and in some corners, well-respected political family, and so it's the stardust...everyone's hearing her name, everyone's mesmerized, still living off, unfortunately, the death of her father."The MO GOP is backing Roy Blunt for the job, assuming he's not indicted for his connections to Jack Abramoff.