Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Light Or The Shadow

Me, six days ago on the GOP:
Let's stop and consider this plan. They have decided that the best way for the GOP to regain their political power is to hope that millions of Americans lose their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods just so they can blame it on Obama.

Think about that. This means in fact the Republicans are basically convinced that the economy is going to fail so badly that they believe that the risk involved in this bald-faced partisan attempt to sink the President's measure and any hope of rehabilitating the economy is less than the risk of voting for the President's measure.
Josh Marshall, today:
Of course, at some level, why would Republicans be trying to drive the country off a cliff? Well, not pretty to say, but they see it in their political interests. Yes, the DeMints and Coburns just don't believe in government at all or have genuinely held if crankish economic views. But a successful Stimulus Bill would be devastating politically for the Republican party. And they know it. If the GOP successfully bottles this up or kills it with a death of a thousand cuts, Democrats will have a good argument amongst themselves that Republicans were responsible for creating the carnage that followed. But the satisfaction will have to be amongst themselves since as a political matter it will be irrelevant. The public will be entirely within its rights to blame Democrats for any failure of government action that happened while Democrats held the White House and sizable majorities in both houses of Congress.
More and more people are coming to a similar conclusion. As Josh says, the GOP cannot allow the stimulus bill to work. If he's successful, Obama saving the economy FDR style will end the GOP as we know it. The GOP is now fully committed to the failure of the stimulus and our economy. It is a harsh and disturbing reality, but I cannot see any other explanation.

Only by making the case directly to the American people can Obama get a stimulus that has any chance of working. Once again, the Democrats are allowing the Republicans to frame the dimensions of the argument. The Village is completely on board with the PR effort. Obama is getting rolled, and the result will be a multi-year depression. The only chance he has to stop it is to make it painfully clear that without it, we're back in 1931.

Think about it. The two outcomes facing the GOP right now at this moment are a stimulus bill that works and enshrines Obama as one of the greatest Presidents ever...or it fails, we spiral into a full-blown depression, and he goes down as one of the worst.

As a Republican on the Hill, which option would YOU choose, the light or the shadow? The fact that every single Republican in the House voted against the bill should clue you in.

And It Keeps Getting Better

The leading replacement for Daschle for HHS secretary? As Digby points out, it's our old friend Blue Dog Jim Cooper.
I wrote the other night about that Blue Dog ass Jim Cooper and how he stuck the shiv into Obama and the stimulus. And I noted this important piece by Mike Lux about Cooper's important role in the tanking of the Clinton health care plan in 1994.

Well, guess what? He's being discussed as the replacement for Daschle at HHS, which is only slightly less ludicrous than the silly idea of Newt Gingrich in the job.

Jim Cooper is an enemy of universal health care. He will, howver, work to ensure that the insurance industry and the Big Pharma gets more of your tax dollars.
Hell, why not. We're going down in flames anyway. Cooper is the quintessential Blue Dog jagoff, having personally led the effort to screw over progressives since the Clinton era. Digby continues:
Read on. And keep in mind that this person simply does not believe in universal health care and he is perfectly comfortable undermining his own president without a second thought. He's already done it to Obama on the stimulus and he will do it again with his very, very clever GOP-style ability to manipulate the press. They need to keep him away from health care.

The country cannot afford another giveaway to Big Insurance and Pharma and desperately needs a complete overhaul of the system in order to get costs into line and get people covered. This recession is going to end up making more than 50 million people without health insurance, very possibly more than that. Many more are terribly underinsured. Obama cannot put some slimy Blue Dog opportunist in charge of it.
The only comfort is the economy is going to tank so badly that Cooper won't be able to get any money to do any damage.

Randy Quaid And The Obama Bank Bailout

From today's WaPo:
The basic problem confronting the government is that banks hold large quantities of assets that they value on their books for much more than investors are willing to pay. Banks cannot sell these assets without recording massive losses. But holding the assets is tying up vast amounts of money, choking the financial system.

Since the early days of the financial crisis, officials have struggled to unwind that knot. If the government buys the assets at prices that banks consider fair, the Treasury would take a huge loss when it ultimately sells the assets for much less. If, instead, the government insists on paying market prices, the banks may not survive their losses.

Instead of taking a single approach, the Obama administration plans to divide assets and other loans into three categories, each with its own solution, according to sources familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details are not finalized.

The government would buy and hold on to those assets whose falling prices are putting banks under the most pressure. Officials want to limit these purchases because of the vast expense.

The centerpiece of the plan would be a guarantee to limit losses on a second group of troubled assets that can be kept by the banks because they have more stable prices.

And it would allow banks to retain and profit from their healthiest assets.

Beyond these initiatives, the government also is likely to inject more capital into troubled institutions.

Yes. That's the entire plan:

1) Put the taxpayer on the hook for trillions in disintegrating, flaming crap,

2) limit losses on trillions of crap that will disintegrate down the road (leading to said taxpayer being on said hook for said crap),

3) let the banks keep actual assets, and

4) throw more money at the banks.

You remember Randy Quaid's character in Major League? The guy in the outfield screaming "Vile Thing! You walk everything!!" at Charlie Sheen?

Yeah, it's like that. We're screwed. Completely. This is going to fail so badly, Obama will have no choice but to nationalize the country's banks.

The Vanquished Winners

Over at LGM, Scott Lemieux argues that the Dems should tell the GOP to screw off and turn the vote for the stimulus bill into a short-term budget reconciliation bill that can't be filibustered.
In theory, this is of course correct; a filibuster should be both politically damaging and futile for the Republicans, and the Democrats shouldn't just assume that they need 60 votes but should compel an actual filibuster before just passing the best stimulus they can under reconciliation rules if necessary. The Democrats should realize that the GOP has very little actual leverage here. Whether they do, of course, is another question, and I'm much less optimistic about the answer than Kevin. (Admittedly, it's hard to tell the difference between concessions being offered to appease Republicans and concessions being offered to appease Blue Dogs.)
And therein lies the problem: it's the Blue Dogs in the Senate preventing the reconciliation path altogether. The bill doesn't even have 50 votes at this point.

The GOP may not have much leverage, but the Democrats have even less spinal integrity. Meanwhile, the odds of passage for the stimulus plan seem to fall daily, and for his bipartisan efforts, Obama will get 100% of the blame and none of the credit on the .001% chance the economy improves before November 2010.

Crash And Burn

All indications are that regional banks are not long for this Earth, as they don't qualify as "too big to fail" like Citigroup or Bank of America. The march off the cliff is being led by Regions Bank, Huntington Bank and Fifth Third Bank. Options traders are putting mid-February contracts on Fifth Third at 20 cents a share, folks. Right now, you could buy the 12th largest bank in the US for less than a billion.

Either mass nationalization or mass failure is imminent for a number of regional banks, within a matter of months, maybe weeks. Obama's econ team is going to have to decide who lives or who dies, because the entire sector is insolvent. Obama is going to have a draw a line in the sand before Easter...maybe before St. Patrick's Day...possibly before President's Day.

The promise of future bailout billions are the only thing keeping the entire financial industry afloat right now. That's it. Eventually Obama has to come up with the money or shut the banks down.

Pretty soon he'll have no choice. Eight million people work in the financial sector. The number working two years from now will be a fraction of that.

Joe The Policy Wonk

Right now, this guy is beating the entire Democratic Party.
Fresh off his stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, Joe the Plumber is now doing political strategy with Republicans.

When GOP congressional aides gather Tuesday morning for a meeting of the Conservative Working Group, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – more commonly known as Joe the Plumber — will be their featured guest. This group is an organization of conservative Capitol Hill staffers who meet regularly to chart GOP strategy for the week.

Wurzelbacher, who became a household name during the presidential election, will be focusing his talk on the proposed stimulus package. He's apparently not a fan of the economic rescue package, according to members of the group.

If nothing else, GOP aides are using the appearance to get staffers to attend the 9 a.m meeting.

Joe the #@&%*#@! Plumber is giving the GOP advice on the stimulus bill, and Obama's stuck giving Bushian dire warnings about what'll happen if people don't listen to him.

Got news for you, Barry. They're not listening to you. The entire GOP is basically using the failure of the stimulus bill as a PR stunt, and Obama's letting them.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The Village Idiots have decided that Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans are now running the stimulus bill. Gee, if only there were some Democrats in charge, etcetera, etcetera. No one could have predicted the GOP would sabotage public support the bill and the Senate Democrats would cave on it while the Republicans then turn around and attack the Democrats anyway with intention of making gains in 2010.

Oh wait. I've been saying that for months now.

Why Is He Getting Press Time?

The Nameless One continues the meme that the Obama era will include some sort of WMD attack on the US that will succeed because "Obama cares more about terrorist's rights than Americans".
Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

In an interview Tuesday with Politico, Cheney unyieldingly defended the Bush administration’s support for the Guantanamo Bay prison and coercive interrogation of terrorism suspects.

And he asserted that President Obama will either backtrack on his stated intentions to end those policies or put the country at risk in ways more severe than most Americans—and, he charged, many members of Obama’s own team — understand.

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.
And when the VP of the United States is more worried about covering his own ass than the US Constitution, I worry.

Course, he's no longer VP. Hopefully soon he'll be in a nice Club Fed cell. Nice of Politico to uncork a Cheney-powered hack job on Obama two weeks into his term. The AFOP rolls on.

Slash Facepalm

Matt Cooper at TPM points out that as an extra added bonus, Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary means a conservative Republican will be in charge of running the 2010 census. The Gregg Gambit is beginning to approach Epic Failitude, guys.


For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Appendage, will somebody in the media please leak what Obama's getting out of this deal so that I stop believing he's been completely rolled along with the entire Democratic party?

Your Daily AFOP Alert

Even McClatchy is getting in on the AFOP sweepstakes with the headline:
Surely this isn't what Obama meant when he vowed change
After all, it's been two whole weeks.

Yes, I know. On one hand I say Obama needs to be held to a higher standard after Bush, on the other hand I'm complaining about AFOP. But there's a pretty wide band between "wanting your President to be more ethical than the last one" and "Obama has failed already!"

I mean, honestly people. McClatchy's dogpiling on the guy already like he's an about to be canceled sitcom. McClatchy.

The honeymoon's not only just over, the Village is asking for a refund with interest on the trip.

Green Industry In The Red

While a climate bill is on the way, the reality is the green jobs Obama promised during the campaign are nowhere to be found in the stimulus plan. However, there's plenty of "clean coal" billions for the industry. Over at the Frog Pond, Steven D takes the Dems to task.
In short, no one in their right mind would want to stimulate a dying, dirty industry whose products are bad for human life, animal life and plant life. No one but our Congress and President Obama, apparently. Now I appreciate that Obama has to compromise a bit, but tossing out funding for green industries in order to subsidize one of the worst sources of pollution and global warming on earth seems like a very poor bargain to me. Right now most of the stimulus for green technologies is in the form of "tax incentives" which work slowly and will have little immediate impact. What we should be doing is providing not just tax benefits, but investment capital in the form of cheap government loans and also government funding for joint research projects with venture capitalists and other investors into ways to make current technologies more economical, and develop new technologies for the future.
Long story short, solar and wind companies are being crushed under the credit crunch and without a bailout soon, they'll go under for good just when we need them most. The problem is that Senate Dems admit they don't have the votes to stop a filibuster, nor do they even have the votes to pass the bill period.
To remove obstacles from the measure's path, Reid said numerous items could fall by the wayside. "The president, the Democratic leaders, the Republican leaders certainly have every intention of moving forward to getting everything out of the bill that causes heartburn to a significant number of senators," he told reporters yesterday.

What Senate leaders cannot predict is which provisions will stay in and which will fall out. It also remains unclear whether Democrats are willing to tamper with measures that are considered high priorities for Obama, but that tackle longer-term challenges such as health-care reform and alternative energy development, rather than providing the quick jolt of expanded unemployment and food-stamp benefits and individual tax relief.

The most ambitious effort to cut the bill is being led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), moderates in their parties who share a dislike of the current version. Collins is scheduled to visit Obama at the White House this afternoon. "I'm going to go to him with a list" of suggested deletions, she said.

Nelson said he and Collins have agreed to "tens of billions" in cuts, although he said he is skeptical that the effort will reach Collins's target of $200 billion in reductions. The pair has counted up to 20 allies in their effort, with more Democrats than Republicans at this point.

Congress, on the other hand, isn't interested in saving them it seems. Perhaps Tom Daschle should get a job as a solar plant lobbyist now that he's looking for work.


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