Ezra hardly challenges Bill Kristol admonishing his conservative cohorts that now is no time to rest on their laurels “[w]ith Obamacare on the ropes.” The Morning Joe crew at MSNBC (sans Joe) regurgitates this “conventional wisdom” in their continuing effort to shape rather than reflect or report on the state of public opinion. Politico and [...]
Read The Full Article:
President Obama directly takes on the comments from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that defeating health care reform will be Obama's "Waterloo": "It will break him."[...]
Read The Full Article:
ete Stark is in a district with a D+22 PVI. Why the hell is he palling around with lobbyists and NOT taking the pledge to vote against any bill that doesn't have a strong public option? Ask him. DC: 202-225-5065, Fremont: 510-494-1388.[...]
Read The Full Article:
While Democrats are engaged in an internecine battle over health care reform, the conservative and moderate wings of the GOP are battling it out over Obama's birth certificate. Dave Weigel has some good video.[...]
Read The Full Article:
Are you a supporter of Sen. Creigh Deeds for Governor? Well now you can show the world! Go to DeedsGear and order everything from T-shirts, stickers, buttons or yard signs.
Now is the time to show Creigh that we stand beside him to move Virginia forward, not turn time backwards!
Read The Full Article:
The beltway consesnsus seems to be that the Democrats' prospects of passing meaningful health insurance reform this year have become much slimmer, if they haven't already entirely evaporated. Like Ezra Klein, however, I'm not really sure what everyone was expecting. There is a lot of money -- and political capital -- at stake here. Were opponents of health care reform going to roll over and play dead? Has anything proceeded that differently from how we might have expected it to proceed ahead of time?
Over at Intrade, the bettors currently assign a 43 percent chance that a health care bill with a public option will be passed by the end of the year. There is no market, unfortunately, on the prospects for passage of a bill without a public option (something which could still happen under any number of scenarios). What's interesting about this contract, though, is that it's not particularly higher or lower than it has ever been. Sure, health care has had a bit of a rough go of things of late, but perhaps not a particularly rougher go than we should have been "pricing in" to our expectations:
I had argued previously that Obama should have done more to frame the debate and put a particular health care bill in front of Congress, rather than letting Congress handle it themselves. Maybe health care would be in a little bit better shape right now if he had done that and maybe it wouldn't; we'll never really be able to test the counterfactual. But because he didn't do that, Obama still has most of his tactical flexibility intact. And there are at least four scenarios under which health care reform could still pass this year:
1. Whip Democrats Into Submission. This is probably the closest thing to the default approach. So long as there are a dozen or a half-dozen different iterations of health care floating around Capitol Hill, individual Democratic Congressmen can afford to bargain for their preferred version. "Progressive" Democrats from rich districts can object to the plan of raising taxes on the very wealthy to pay for expanded coverage. Labor-backed Democrats can try and play hardball on any proposal to remove the benefits tax exemption. The Blue Dogs can howl at the moon for whatever it is they want -- probably some kind of sweeteners for rural districts, like the ones given to farm-state Democrats on the climate bill. And advocates of the public option can continue to treat it as a sine qua non and threaten to oppose any bill that doesn't include one.
Once a particular bill is put up to a vote, however, the overwhelming majority of Democrats are going to have a difficult time voting against it. Health care reform remains quite popular in theory and at least marginally popular in practice. It will probably do the most good for those districts where conservative Democrats tend to reside.
And then there is the oldest motivator of all: survival. The failure of health care reform in 1994 may have damaged Bill Clinton -- but it really damaged the Congressional Democrats, who lost 54 seats in the House and another 8 in the Senate. Of the 36 incumbent Democrats who lost that year, only four (North Carolina's David Price, Ohio's Ted Strickland and Washington's Maria Cantwell and Jay Inslee) would ever return to the Congress (whereas Clinton, of course, was re-elected). Any Democrat who votes against health care, moreover, can expect to be permanently shut off from the Obama-run DNC and from most or all grassroots fundraising drives, and many of them can probably expect a primary challenger.
There are probably some Democrats who would be better off if health care went away. But once it comes up to vote, I'd imagine there will be very few who are actually better off voting against it.
2. Reconciliation. This is not necessarily mutually exclusive with the other scenarios, but Obama could try and use the reconciliation process to pass health care, which would mean Republicans would lose the ability to filibuster in the Senate and Democrats would need only need 50 votes for passage. This is risky: the extent to which the bill remained intact would depend upon the rulings of the obscure Senate Parliamentarian, and going through reconciliation would cause mayhem on the Hill with somewhat unpredictable political consequences. And it would certainly look overtly partisan -- especially now that Democrats have gained their 59th and 60th seats in the Senate. But if Obama decides that health care is too big to fail, reconciliation is an option.
3. Wyden-Bennett and Other "Bipartisan" Approaches.. I don't see any particular reason why the Administration couldn't press the reset button and push for a different sort of health care bill -- particularly Ron Wyden's, which already has a half-dozen Republican supporters. In fact, it might make Obama look somewhat good to "acknowledge the political realities" (yadda yadda) and adopt a more "bipartisan" approach. A lot of Republicans claim to support health care -- just not the particular approach being put forth by the Democratic Congress. Shifting gears, particularly to a bill like Wyden-Bennett that is strong on cost containment, would reveal many of them to be hypocrites, but probably also secure enough of their votes to make passage a likelihood.
4. Hope the Economy Gets Better (or Some Other Secular Change in Momentum). In general, I'm pessimistic about the state of the economy insofar as it will affect Obama's political capital. Even if the economy formally pulls out of a recession -- some economists think we're already out of the recession -- it will take some time before the employment picture turns around. The past week, however, has brought some relatively good economic news and the Dow is now hovering at about 8,800 points, around its 6-month highs. If the next monthly jobs report is better than expected, if the Dow somehow rallies past 10,000, or if the recession is declared over, that might give Obama a little bit of actual momentum which may be amplified by the Washington press corps, which by that point will have tired of the "Obama is melting!" storyline and may be looking to describe his "comeback" instead.
* * *
I'm not about to go out on a limb with some sort of prediction that health care is going to pass this year. It could very easily fail. But it's not going to fail without the White House fighting like mad for it, and with most or all of its options being exhausted. The fundamental weakness of the White House press corps is that they can rarely see beyond the current 24-hour news cycle -- there are still a lot of news cycles ahead before ObamaCare can be put to rest.
Read The Full Article:
BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Rebecca Freitag
A few reports to be published this week are helping shed some light on the U.S. economic outlook.
The Federal Reserve and the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) both report that the economic recession is most likely nearing its end this year.
On the other hand, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Neil Barofsky reports that some of the banks that received TARP money misused their funds to pay off debts, buy other banks or make investments, not to make loans to businesses.
Although the misuse of funds could be a step backward, the news of any sort of recovery is good news for a country that has been in trying times for too long. This recession dates back to December 2007 and is the longest since the Great Depression.
The Fed reports that while the end may be near, the economy may not fully recover for another five to six years, especially the job market. The national unemployment rate, currently at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, will pass 10 percent by the end of the year, the Fed projected last week:
Consumer spending appeared to have stabilized since the start of the year, sales and starts of new homes were flattening out, and the recent declines in capital spending did not look as severe as those that had occurred around the turn of the year.
This is stuff you will NOT find in the mainstream media, no matter how biased for the "libruls" the right claims it is. Not one single major national news outlet, including the cable networks, has bothered to present this information in any usable form.
But it's always been out there. The data is based on government figures that are published regularly by the GAO, the Census Bureau (perhaps the REAL reason Michelle "Crazy Lady" Bachmann wants it shut down?), the CBO and various IGs for government agencies. You just have to dig for it and I usually find it on the internet, just like I find everything else I really need to know. [http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/column/458595 Based on a column by Don Monkerud in The Capital Times, Madison Wisconsin:
In June 2009, the U.S. economy saw its second steepest decline in 27 years. New jobless claims increased, business inventories fell and exports plunged as bad economic news persisted.
Will the once high-flying American wealth machine continue to produce the vast inequalities of the past?
Sure it will. It never stops producing wealth (for SOMEBODY) and all things being equal... meaning that we keep voting the same malevolent mental gnomes into office to pimp for the uber rich and the corporations... as long as it produces wealth it can't help but produce inequities. The difference lies in how the wealth gets distributed.
Those who try to blame Obama for all the economic woes of the lower and middle classes really need to do some damned studying instead of just regurgitating the Rush Limbaugh's talking points on a daily basis.
None of this crap started on his watch. It may or may not be continuing on his watch but as impatient as I am, I'm willing to withhold judgment on that until he's actually had time to DO something. But in any event, he didn't start the stuff.
Only two years ago (before Obama), Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes magazine, declared 2007 "the richest year ever in human history.".
Yeah... I remember Bush and several others saying the same damned thing, high fiving each other and crowing like banty roosters in a flock of hens and my answer was, and is, "Oh yeah? For who?". Here's who:
During eight years of the Bush administration, the 400 richest Americans, who now own more than the bottom 150 million Americans, increased their net worth by $700 billion.
In 2005, the top 1 percent claimed 22 percent of the national income, while the top 10 percent took half of the total income, the largest share since 1928.
Wow... 10 percent of the population in total control of 50+% of the total wealth. And the references to 1928... the last full year before the 20th century's biggest financial meltdown. Isn't that damned eerie? All those similarities between the run up to 1929 and the run up to the current mess... you'd think someone was actually planning this shit, eh?
In June 2009, the Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Report estimated the number of the world's wealthiest people declined by 15 percent, the steepest decline in the report's 13-year history. The number of millionaires in the U.S. fell by 19 percent to 2.5 million people.
Analysts tell us the economy is being restructured, but how will the disparities in wealth between the rich and the poor play out?
First off don't even try to point to this as some indication that the system is reforming itself in any way that will benefit the other 90% of us. Those poor little millionaires didn't lose out because the poor gained anything, that's for damned sure. They lost out for the same reason the rest of us lost during those eight years.
There's only so much room at the top of the food chain and the Great White Sharks who occupy the top are turning cannibal and eating the smaller sharks. The weaker and less adept sharks are simply learning the hard way that the bigger sharks don't give a rodent's rectum whether lunch is Charlie the Tuna or other sharks, just so they're getting fed.
"The source of wealth has changed over the past 30 years; corporations have become the engine of inequality in the U.S.," says Sam Pizzigati, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. "In the past, wealth came from ownership: Today it comes increasingly from income."
Over 40 percent of GNP comes from Fortune 500 companies. According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research, the 500 largest conglomerates in the U.S. "control over two-thirds of the business resources, employ two-thirds of the industrial workers, account for 60 percent of the sales, and collect over 70 percent of the profits."
This is how they've always been able to coerce American workers to support their drive to be allowed to operate unhampered by any government oversight and/or regulation... by claiming that lack of open access to the federal chicken house was going to cost Americans jobs.
And they were claiming this at the same time they were shutting down American factories, laying off American workers, importing cheap and even hazardous facsimiles of the materials we used to produce ourselves, shifting investments to emerging countries and investing in THEIR economies and infrastructures instead of our own.
From about 1980 onward, and especially during the period 2000 until 2008, they were pretty much granted everything they wanted in terms of deregulation, lack of oversight, and they enjoyed winky winky, look the other way, tacit approval of virtually anything and everything they did.
And what did we get for allowing them unfettered access to the hen house? They pretty much sucked all the eggs and then ate the chickens that were laying them. What did anyone expect them to do?
Corporations systematically created a wealth gap over the last 30 years. In 1955, IRS records indicated the 400 richest people in the country were worth an average $12.6 million, adjusted for inflation. In 2006, the 400 richest increased their average to $263 million, representing an epochal shift of wealth upward in the U.S.
In 1955, the richest tier paid an average 51.2 percent of their income in taxes under a progressive federal income tax that included loopholes. By 2006, the richest paid only 17.2 percent of their income in taxes.
And yet they're still squealing like a herd of stuck pigs about the inequality of a tax system that "punishes the achievers" by placing such an "unfair burden" on the rich. They're so damned offended by the idea that the rich should put back in proportion to what they take that they are... even as we speak... wreaking massive punishment on the citizens of California for daring to think so.
In 1955, the proportion of federal income from corporate taxes was 33 percent; by 2003, it decreased to 7.4 percent. Today, the top taxpayers pay the same percentage[b] of their incomes in taxes as those making $50,000 to $75,000, [b]although they doubled their share of total U.S. income.
And yet we have old Boner standing in front of the house and the TV cameras, flashing through 10-12 shades of orange and shakin' like a chihuahua shittin' a peach pit... whining about the plight of the common citizens and trying to claim that only more of the same kind of bullshit is what's good for America.
"Over the past 30 years, the income of the top 1 percent, adjusted for inflation, doubled: the top one-tenth of 1 percent tripled, and the top one-one-hundredth quadrupled," says Pizzigati. "Meanwhile, the average income of the bottom 90 percent has gone down slightly. This is a stunning transformation."
To you wingers who claim requiring them to pay a fair share is somehow punishing the achievers, I suggest you read that paragraph again... maybe several times... before you get in my face about how wonderful Reaganomics have been for the country or for whom 2007 was the "richest year ever in human history".
And while we're doing figures, here are some more:
Meanwhile, wages for most Americans didn't improve from 1979 to 1998, and the median male wage in 2000 was below the 1979 level, despite productivity increases of 44.5 percent. Between 2002 and 2004, inflation-adjusted median household income declined $1,669 a year. To make up for lost income, credit card debt soared 315 percent between 1989 and 2006, representing 138 percent of disposable income in 2007.
Which gives the Wall Street banksters yet another grip on the balls of Americans everywhere, eh?
And about those half million jobs a year that are being lost?
"In the past corporations laid off workers because business was bad," Pizzigati says. "But over the past few decades, downsizing has been a corporate wealth generating strategy. Today, CEOs don't spend their time trying to make better products: they maneuver to take over other companies, steal their customers and fire their workers."
And for those who will claim that unions serve no purpose other than to take money from their members and do nothing in return...
Progressive taxation used to prevent the rich from capturing a disproportionate share of national compensation, and the labor movement, which represented 35 percent of private sector employees and today represents 8 percent, once served as a political force to limit excessive executive pay.
NOW ask yourself again why all those companies and their lackeys like Boner are so hell bent on destroying the labor movement that they would bankrupt half the damned country to do it. They don't give a pinch of monkey shit about how much it might cost you to belong to a union. They'd be spewing the same shit if unions were flipping free and now you know why.
The Reagan backlash cut the top income tax rates, and saw the creation of right-wing think tanks that spent $30 billion over the past 30 years propagandizing for deregulation, privatization and wealth worship.
And they're reaping the rewards for that today. As for the rest of us... we get the honor of being the tools by which they reap. I don't know about you, but that ain't exactly a thrill for a cynical old bastard like myself.
As for the the turds all those learned corporatist and elite think tankers gave birth to while ensconced on those marble thrones in their ivory towers? You're more familiar with them than you might think. They were called "bubbles". But they were turds all the same and as I've said often, shit, just like water, flows downhill.
Bubble economies over the past 30 years helped CEOs pump up their income, and efforts to corral their pay are weak and ineffective. CEO pay may fall during these economic hard times, but disparity isn't going away. Without a strong movement for change, the wealth gap will only increase in this downturn.
Ain't that a happy fricking thought?
F**k 'em all.
Read The Full Article:
The headline of today's Financial Times cover story "Banks use Tarp funds to boost lending," could not be more misleading.
As the article itself makes clear, "Some 43 per cent [of banks] said that they had bolstered their capital cushion, 31 per cent made other investments, 14 per cent repaid debt and 4 per cent made acquisitions." Clearly, the 49 per cent of the TARP funds (31+14+4) that went to something other than "bolstering capital cushions" did not go to loan making, but that does not at all mean that the 43 per cent which did go to capital cushions materially "boosted lending", even though a large number of the respondents would have us believe it did:
First, one needs to measure the amount of TARP dollars not the number of TARP recipients, since of course a small distressed regional bank that received a de minimus amount of TARP monies is no comparison to, say, Citibank and BofA, and the article fails to make this distinction.
Second, a careful review of last week's bank earnings reports shows that in the first half of 2009, the major banks, which received almost all of the actual TARP monies, actually used their bolstered capital cushions and the exceptionally high 25:1 leverage ratio permitted under the Geithner stress tests mostly for renewed proprietary trading - and, according to their very own statements, specifically NOT for much new lending.
- Leo Hindery
Chairman, Smart Globalization Initiative, New America Foundation
Managing Partner, Intermedia Partners
If you'd like to get these must-read talking points in your inbox, click here to subscribe.
-- Samuel Sherraden
With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible. There will be a tendency to want to let the Democrats' plans sink of their own weight, to emphasize that the critics have been pushing sound reform ideas all along and suggest it's not too late for a bipartisan compromise over the next couple of weeks or months.
My advice, for what it's worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.
It's hard to believe that this needs to be said again, but obviously it does: Republicans aren't interested in bipartisanship. They aren't interested in meaningful health care reform. And God knows they don't give a damn what it means for millions of Americans. The only thing they want is a political victory. Period.