I've been thinking about the report that the White House is denying that they told Harry Reid to give up on the Medicare opt-in and find some settlement with Lieberman. Regardless of who's lying and who's telling the truth, the story is quite telling as to just how bad the relationship has gotten between the Majority Leader and the President. Either Barack Obama is trying to strong arm Harry Reid, and Harry Reid is going public about it to kill the effort and embarrass the President. Or Harry Reid is planning on caving to Lieberman, all on his own, and wants to pin the blame on the President. Either possibility suggests that the relationship between the two man is crap.
Lieberman was for a Medicare buy-in program only three months ago. Since then, the idea actually might save health care reform, so Lieberman is now against it.
Matt Yglesias welcomes us to the Lieberman Administration:
I agree with Chris Bowers that in a lot of ways the real story here is that the Senate leadership has, at every step of this process, underscored that a ?reconciliation? path to a health care bill is off the table. That means Lieberman has unlimited control over what happens, and no incentive to compromise, so it shouldn?t surprise anyone that he?s being uncompromising.FDL on the Liebocrats winning control of the Senate.
As I noted in my earlier post, it's blindingly clear that Joe Lieberman is just pulling head-fakes now not holding the line on any policy issue he actually believes in. But it turns out that not only did Lieberman run in 2000 on the Medicare Buy-In he[...]
Read The Full Article:
I applaud the The Financial Reform bill that made its way out of the House with a lot of good reform measures included. When you look into the massive unaccounted for giveaways that the Fed is involved in, worth Trillions, number one on the list is the[...]
Read The Full Article:
Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal Al-Harith were released from Guantanamo in 2004. They sued for torture and religious discrimination. Their case was dismissed. Today, the Supreme Court denied cert.
The Obama administration opposed high court review of the case, adhering to its practice of defending Bush administration officials against allegations from one-time suspected terrorists or Taliban allies.
The defendants in the case included top Bush military officials such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The D.C. Court of Appeals decision, which will now stand, is here. [More...]
The lawsuit alleged 7 grounds:
Counts 1, 2, and 3 invoked federal jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, and alleged violations of international law. Count 4 alleged violations of unspecified provisions of the Geneva Convention. Counts 5 and 6 asserted Bivens claims for violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Count 7 alleged a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq.
The DC appeals court ruled the detainees could not sue because they were not "people" within the meaning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
On a related note regarding the constitutional rights of the undocumented, the court reiterated the standard: Once a person is living in the U.S., whether lawfully or not, he is entitled to the protections of the Constitution:
...aliens receive constitutional protections when they have come within the territory of the United States and developed substantial connections with this country.” Id. (citing Plyler v. Doe, 257 U.S. 202, 212 (1982) (The provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment “are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction . . . .”) (emphasis added in Verdugo-Urquidez); Kwong Hai Chew v. Colding, 344 U.S. 590, 596 n. 5 (1953) (“The Bill of Rights is a futile authority for the alien seeking admission for the first time to these shores. But once an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders.”) (emphasis added in Verdugo-Urquidez)).
Back to Rasul, et. al. At the time the DC Appeals Court issued its opinion, one of their lawyers said:
“It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when a court finds that torture is all in a days’ work for the Secretary of Defense and senior generals. It violates the President’s stated policy, our treaty obligations, and universal legal norms.
Schwab launched two more ETFs today (12/11/09): Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF (SCHG) and Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Value ETF (SCHV). Both funds will have an expense ratio of 0.15% and commission-free trading in Schwab brokerage accounts.Schwab made a grand entrance into the ETF business about five weeks ago. By offering their products with some of the industry’s lowest prices, coupled with zero-commission trading for Schwab customers, I went so far as to declare it a watershed event.Although Schwab did not have the entire month to pull in assets, they made impressive strides during the month of November. In less than a…
Read The Full Article:
Over at the Wall Street Journal, Michael Petrilli of Hoover Institution has an op-ed encouraging the Republican party to pursue a class of voters he calls "Whole Foods Republicans" in an effort to build a winning electoral coalition. He defines these as[...]
Read The Full Article:
When last we saw WaPo editorialist and Ayn Rand fanboy Charles Lane, the former "editor" of Stephen Glass's New Republic fairy tales was celebrating Thanksgiving by denying the existence of a hunger problem in the United States. (I, for one, am looking forward to Lane's inevitable Christmas column, where he'll decry the work of the Marine Corps' Toys For Tots program as the enabling of lazy parents.)
So you're no doubt waiting breathlessly to learn how Fred Hiatt's favorite Cato Institute stenographer plans to encourage the creation of new jobs. (You're not? Oh.) Well, he's got a typically terrific, innovative idea:
With unemployment stuck around 10 percent, President Obama has pledged "to take every responsible step to accelerate the pace of job growth." Here's a thought: Instead of trying to "create" jobs by tweaking this tax break or increasing that spending program, why not stop doing things that destroy jobs?
OK, cool. So this is going to be a column about revamping our employer-based health care system so that businesses aren't burdened with nearly exponentially growing employee health costs, and so that workers can move from job to job without worrying about losing coverage for their sick kids? I could be down with that.
Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. Passed in the 1930s to "stabilize" the construction industry (in part by protecting white workers in the North against competition from migrating Southern blacks), this law requires employers to pay the "prevailing" local wage on federally funded projects.
Oh. So it's going to be one of those columns.
Look -- the Chamber of Commerce's ham-handed race-baiting aside, the purpose of the Davis-Bacon Act is very simple. Davis-Bacon (like its non-construction analogue, the Service Contract Act) exists to ensure that the Federal government doesn't use its massive buying power to drive down wages in the construction industry. The idea is that the government should pay the same to build schools, roads, bridges, and other projects as commercial builders in a given locality. Where wages are generally high for a given building trade in a particular city -- thanks generally to a high rate of unionization -- the prevailing wage paid on government-funded projects is high. Where wages are generally low for a trade in a city -- as in the case in most of the South and other areas with low union density -- the prevailing wage paid on government-funded projects is low. As then-Senator Obama wrote in the wake of President Bush's temporary suspension of Davis-Bacon on the Gulf Coast after Katrina:
President Bush would have Americans believe that Davis-Bacon wages are exorbitant, and that contractors would not be able to afford to do their jobs and pay their employees’ wages. Nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, sheet metal workers in Pearl River County, Mississippi earned $9.16 an hour before the Hurricane, and truck drivers in Mobile, Alabama made $8.54 for an hour’s work. I am sure you will agree with me that by any reasonable estimates, these wages are not prohibitively high.
In short, Davis-Bacon simply requires the federal government to pay the same for its construction projects as the bulk of private builders in a metropolitan area. In so doing, Davis-Bacon allows construction workers to remain a bulwark of the shrinking American middle class. Without Davis-Bacon, construction wages would fall dramatically, which might warm Charles Lane's heart, but which would put a damper on the overall economy by seriously depressing consumer spending. And at a time where even low interest rates and Federal assistance to banks aren't spurring construction lending, I wouldn't count on a drop in construction wages doing a damn this to create jobs. Lane's prescription would serve to do little but line the pockets of mammoth general contractors like KBR. (As this piece is already running long, I won't even get into the myriad positive effects of Davis-Bacon on the economy, but they're substantial.)
The proposed repeal of Davis-Bacon is a niche corporatist hobby horse, like the repeal of the estate tax or the incessant call to cut capital gains taxes. And like the constant braying for tax cuts for the rich, the push to screw construction workers will forever be tailored to the tone of the moment. The economy's booming? Cut capital gains taxes and repeal Davis-Bacon! The economy's in the toilet? Cut capital gains taxes and repeal Davis-Bacon! No matter what the situation, the prescription from Lane and his plutocrat buddies in the same: make the rich richer and turn the middle class into the working poor. It never ceases to amaze me that comfortable, soft-handed pundits feel so threatened by tradespeople earning decent middle-class wages, but they do. It's pathological.
So now that we've got that out of the way, let's see what else Lane suggests to create jobs:
Reduce the federal minimum wage.
Did I say that repealing Davis-Bacon "is a niche corporatist hobby horse, like the repeal of the estate tax or the incessant call to cut capital gains taxes?" I meant, "repealing Davis-Bacon is a niche corporatist hobby horse, like the repeal of the estate tax or the incessant call to cut capital gains taxes or the non-stop attacks on the minimum wage."
Cut taxes, cut wages, I got mine, you go get yours, repeat. You know, I've got a great idea for Katherine Weymouth to improve the WaPo's bottom line during these tough times -- rather than pay Charles Lane good money to write this drivel, just reprint the free press releases that Cato and the Chamber send to your newsroom. You might just buy the paper a couple extra months before it goes under.
So nice of David Gregory to make sure we all got to hear what the man who's been wrong about everything, Alan Greenspan, thinks about what we should do now to fix the economy he helped to mess up, or whether or not the Fed should be audited.
MR. GREGORY: This is an interesting question about our role in the world, how the rest of the world sees us, our commitment to capitalism and, in corporate America, Dr. Greenspan, the notion of where is the certainty? Washington is a big question mark now when it comes to climate policy, healthcare policy. A lot of businesses saying, "Look, we don't know what's coming down the pike." There's no impetus to grow, to expand, to invest.
DR. GREENSPAN: That's the key problem; that is, investment occurs when you have a stable economy and when you can foresee what's going on in the future. Because, remember, you make a risky investment which may have 10 years or 15 years life to it, and unless you have some semblance of a notion as to what is out there...
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
DR. GREENSPAN: ...you're going to be reluctant to invest. And that is key. I mean, I agree with Jim in this respect. I think it's very critical that we get the uncertainties out of the system.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think additional stimulus for jobs makes sense at this stage?
DR. GREENSPAN: No. I think what is missing in this whole discussion is that the--what I presume to be the major source of the recovery, and that is the remarkable increase in the amount of stock market wealth that has occurred in the last six to nine months. People think stock prices are just paper profits. They are not. They create real purchasing power and, most importantly, they create a fluidity into the financial system which is the reason why even though banks are not lending freely at this particular stage, they are solvent and the problems that we had six to nine months ago have disappeared, because essentially $5 trillion worth of increased equity is pouring into the economy. And you can see it in the retail sales figures. 401(k)s, for example, have increased by half a trillion dollars.
MR. GREGORY: And yet the president says Wall Street's to blame. He just said it in his radio address. Is that the wrong message?
DR. GREENSPAN: Well, the problem is that there is an issue here, namely that this is a bivariate type of economy.
MR. GREGORY: What does that mean?
DR. GREENSPAN: It means that, it means that...
MR. GREGORY: Don't try to slip that in here where we can't understand something.
DR. GREENSPAN: Well, it's my old Fed...
MR. GREGORY: Exactly.
DR. GREENSPAN: It's my old Fed speak coming back.
MR. GREGORY: Exact--old habits, yeah.
DR. GREENSPAN: I can't break the habit. Look, there were two economies here, which is very unfortunate. The economy is being driven in a positive sense by big business and wealthy individuals. Small business, small banks and a very significant part of the unemployed are not prospering. I'm particularly concerned about where the job machine is relevant to small business...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
DR. GREENSPAN: ...which are doing miserably. They're getting--have great difficulty financing and great difficulty in creating jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to another question about the role of government, and that is the role of the Federal Reserve. Dr. Greenspan, Paul Krugman, liberal economic economist for The New York Times columnist, wrote this this week about what the Fed ought to do: "There's also," he wrote, "I believe, a question of priorities. The Fed sprang into action when faced with the prospect of wrecked banks; it doesn't seem equally concerned about the prospect of wrecked lives. And that is what we're talking about here. The kind of sustained high unemployment envisaged in the Fed's own forecast is a recipe for immense human suffering--millions of families losing their savings and their homes, millions of young Americans never getting their working lives properly started because there are no jobs available when they graduate. If we don't get unemployment down soon, we'll be paying a price for a generation." Does the Fed have more to do?
DR. GREENSPAN: I think the Fed has done an extraordinary job, and it's done a huge amount. There's just so much monetary policy and the central bank can do, and I think they've gone to their limits at this particular stage. And you cannot ask them to create more than is physically possible. They, they stopped what essentially was a major financial collapse by interposing sovereign credit for private credit for commercial paper, for essentially blocking a number of problems which emerged especially, incidentally, in conjunction with the Treasury, the so-called TARP program, where they put capital into banks.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
DR. GREENSPAN: I thought at that point was essential. The difficulty is there is a limit. And if the Federal Reserve does not, in fact, pull in all of the stimulus it's put into the economy, then down the road is inflation. It's a long way down the road and it's not immediate. But the question is, you cannot ask a, a central bank to do more than it is capable of doing without very dire consequences.
MR. GREGORY: Are you worried about the Fed's independence?
DR. GREENSPAN: Very much so.
MR. GREGORY: What do you think the consequences of some of the legislation on Capitol Hill are now?
DR. GREENSPAN: If, in fact, specifically, they take away the amendment that was passed in 1978 which prohibited the GAO, the General Accounting Office, from auditing monetary policy, if that is removed, I think that will very significantly compromise Federal Reserve independence. And what you will be getting is a monetary policy more dedicated to political short-term considerations, not to the longer-term considerations which the Federal Reserve Act was specifically constructed to do.
"Lowering The Minimum Wage: Is It Better for Workers?"[...]
Read The Full Article:
Last week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) sent out a recruitment call for “new Republicans,” confirming that he sees “little use for a big-tent approach for his party.” As South Carolina’s The State put it, DeMint is setting himself up as a kingmaker, wading into national races to endorse far-right candidates.
And one of the issues about which DeMint feels very strongly is Social Security. In an interview with Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt, DeMint blasted Social Security as “socialistic,” and advocated reviving President George Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme:
DeMint considers Social Security a ?socialistic? measure and blasts the American Association of Retired Persons for promulgating ?socialist solutions”…In the interview, he talks of reviving President George W. Bush?s failed plan to partially privatize Social Security by having workers put a small percentage of the current levy in a personal savings account.
As CNN Money’s Allan Sloan wrote back in January, “someday, Social Security privatization will come back into vogue. When that happens, I’ve got two words that will remind you why it’s a bad idea: Remember 2008.” It’s quite shocking that we’re not even through 2009 yet, and 2008, at least for DeMint, is already forgotten.
But let’s review. As a Center for American Progress Action Fund report found, under a Bush-style privatization plan, a October 2008 retiree would have lost $26,000 in the market plunge. If the U.S. stock market had behaved like the Japanese market during the duration of that retiree’s work life, “a private account would have experienced sharp negative returns, losing $70,000 — an effective -3.3 percent net annual rate of return.” And this doesn’t take into account the full plunge of the stock market, which dipped below 7,000 in March 2009.
As the Cunning Realist pointed out, failed investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were both “blue chips, the sort of companies that proponents of private accounts insisted any new system would be limited to.” Can you imagine the mess that would have occurred — and the leverage those companies would have held — had not only the financial system’s health, but the retirement accounts of untold seniors, been tied up in them?
The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that, “as a result of the collapse of the housing bubble, the vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little wealth outside of Social Security.” Privatization opponents would have had seniors sacrifice that safety net as well.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.