Thursday, February 5, 2009

Yet More Stimulus And Response

Harry Reid says the Dems now have the votes to pass the stimulus bill.
Senators working to craft a massive U.S. economic stimulus package said on Thursday they had agreed it should be close to the $800 billion wanted by President Barack Obama, and Senate leader Harry Reid said he believed he had the votes to pass it.

Moderate Democratic and Republican senators, seeking to bolster support for a compromise, agreed to cut the package from some $900 billion after pressure from Republicans who said it was too high and included non-essential projects.

Reid told reporters he expected a full Senate vote on the measure later in the day and that it would pass. "We hope to have the vote today," he said. "Do we have the votes? We believe we do. We believe we can find two Republicans of good will."

The Republicans are now in full crisis mode as they look for the "traitors to humanity" who will resist the inevitable filibuster. One of them is Maine's Susan Collins, but the Dems will need at least one more Republican to get this done. The House will pass whatever the Senate passes, and Obama could be signing this into law next week.

Or it could all come apart.

[UPDATE] Turns out Harry Reid doesn't have the votes after all, and has called it quits for the night. Who knows at this point.


Yeah, the GOP is delusional. Once again they believe they are the brave insurgents protecting America from the evil Democratic Socialism onslaught.

No, really.

Frustrated by a lack of bipartisan outreach from House Democratic leaders, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said House Republicans -- who voted unanimously last week against the economic plan pushed by President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- will pitch a "positive, loyal opposition" to the proposal. The group, he added, should also "understand insurgency" in implementing efforts to offer alternatives.

"Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban," Sessions said during a meeting yesterday with Hotline editors. "And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes. And these Taliban -- I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that's not what we're saying. I'm saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with."

That agreement, as Sessions described it, involved a promise from Pelosi to preside over an "open, honest, ethical Congress." Obama, Sessions added, has pledged to diminish the political rhetoric in Washington and work in a bipartisan fashion.

"If they do not give us those options or opportunities then we will then become insurgency of a nature to where we do those things that are necessary to making sure the American public knows what we think the correct answer is," Sessions said during the 60-minute interview. "So we either work together, or we're going to find a way to get our message out."

Yeah, insurgents. And they wonder why they lost.


Making The Case

Good. Obama plans to hold a prime-time news conference on Monday night to state his case for the stimulus bill. This is the kind of thing Obama needs to do more of.

Well, kind of. I'm personally leery of the Village Idiots doing the GOP's work for them by spending the entire news conference saying "Mr. President, how do you justify spending X dollars on Y?" and "Do you believe you have lost control of the debate?" and basically defining the argument strictly by GOP talking points when the real question needs to be "Mr. President, how are you going to save America's economy?"

But that of course would entail Villagers doing actual work.

Block Buster

Republicans continue to block any nomination vote on Obama's Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis. Today's Senate committee vote was delayed again when Republicans insisted they needed far more time to discuss Solis' work as treasurer of a pro-labor group. Now, they want more time to discuss her husband's tax lien issues, and Republicans are now screaming that Solis should immediately withdraw.

The Employee Free Choice Act scares these people so much that any Labor Secretary who would actually enforce it will not be tolerated by the GOP in any way.

[UPDATE]Labor committee senior Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming explains there's no chance whatsoever that Solis's nomination will be acted upon anytime soon.

Some Good News

As I mentioned yesterday, putting conservative Republican Judd Gregg in charge of the Census as Commerce Secretary, phenom-a-bad idea.

However, Team Obama fixed this problem damn fast, as Steve Benen tells us that Obama hasn't left the Census to the GOP.
Fortunately, he didn't. CQ's Jonathan Allen has the story.

The director of the Census Bureau will report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce, according to a senior White House official.

The decision came after black and Hispanic leaders raised questions about Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg's commitment to funding the census.

Gregg, New Hampshire's senior senator, voted in committee and on the floor for a 1995 Republican budget that envisioned the elimination of the Commerce Department. Of even more concern to black and Hispanic leaders, Gregg battled President Clinton over a request for "emergency" funding for the 2000 census.

The prospect of Gregg overseeing the census drew intense criticism this week from the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, among others. Taking the census out of Gregg's hands should go a long way in assuaging concerns.

It's also evidence that the White House will take notice when a decision draws fire from Obama's base.

For now. How about that bank thing, Barry?

Applied Lying For Dummies

Wall Street is thrilled this morning that Obama plans to let insolvent banks lie about being insolvent.
Stocks extended gains on Thursday as shares of financial services companies sharply cut losses on talk that Washington's rescue plan for banks may include suspension of a key accounting rule, traders said.

"The market suspects there maybe a suspension of mark-to-market accounting as part of the plan coming out of Washington to shore up the financial system," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey. "It would be very impactful."

Among bank stocks, shares of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC - News) cut more than half of their losses following the accounting talk. Earlier the stock had hit its lowest since 1984.
So the most effective part of Obama's Bad Bank Bonanza as far as Wall Street is concerned is not the free money injections, and not the loan guarantees for more free money, and not the part where the government gives them yet more free money to buy assets that are literally worthless, but the part where banks get to lie about what their craptastic worthless assets are actually worth.

And people ask me why I'm so convinced that we're screwed.

It works like this. Let's say you have a car as an asset. You buy the car 10 years ago, it goes down in value, you count what the Kelly Blue Book says your used car is worth should you try to sell the car.

Banks on the other hand have the car and they keep screaming at the top of their lungs that the car is worth exactly what they paid for it ten years ago. Replace "car" with "Securitized Mortgage Bundled Thingy" and you have the problem. "Mark-to-Market" accounting means the banks have to value the crap at the crappy 2 cents on the dollar that it's actually worth rather than the 100 cents on the dollar paid for the damn security bond in the first place.

Now, Obama wants to let them lie again. Bank stocks are actually up about 10% across the board this morning on the news. Let's keep in mind that up until about last year when the bailouts started, banks were happily free to lie about this. The number one complaint out of Wall Street was that mark-to-market accounting practices, I.E. THE TRUTH, was killing them. They've been lying about it and have been able to lie about it for years and years under Bush. When the bailouts started, suddenly the truth was woo much to handle.

That's because the truth is our financial sector is insolvent. Completely. They lost trillions of dollars betting on this stuff. Period. Game over.

The only real solution is to nationalize. Won't happen. Lying is much, much easier. Obama has no problem with this. Geithner and Summers have no problem with this.

But you will have a problem with it when our economy folds. Remember, our brainiacs in Washington are counting on applied lying for dummies and throwing money at banks to fix the problem.

If that isn't a Bushian solution, I don't know what is. Of course it will fail. Of course our economy will fail along with it.

It's depressing. As Atrios mused yesterday, "I wonder if this is how empires fall."

If It's Thursday... must be time for another 26-year high in new jobless claims and for December factory orders to be down 3.9% or so. Tomorrow's unemployment figures are expected to be around 525,000 lost jobs...I'll take 600,000 on it.

No end in sight, folks.

Bad Bank Blues

More details are leaking about the Obama administration's Bad Bank Bonanza plan, and they aren't encouraging.
The Obama administration has decided on a new package of aid measures for the financial services industry, including a bad bank component, and is expected to announce them next Monday, according to a source familiar with the planning.

The plan will be "smaller" than originally expected, said the industry source, and centered around government guarantees and insurance of troubled assets, what's called a "ring fence" concept.
What's a ring fence concept?
The ring fence concept has already been used with Citigroup and Bank of America.
Oh, well that's giving me warm fuzzies. Do what we've done for BoA and Citigroup for every bank in America. Surely if we throw trillions at the problem it will naturally form a dam out of all those dollar bills and stanch the flow of red ink. Hooray, our fiduciary genius is manifest! Cookies and juice boxes for everyone!

Bonus stupidity:
Under the emerging plan, the government will buy toxic assets below the banks "carrying value," which is basically market value, but not at fire sale levels, the source said.

Negotiators hope that concept would placate both taxpayer and Congressional concerns about the government over-paying for the assets. But, the source noted, it could "trigger an accounting problem for the banks," presumably because the institutions will have to report a loss on the transactions.

The Obama administration is now working on ideas to address that, which might entail, a temporary suspension of certain accounting rules.

Buy crap from bank, allow banks to lie about taking loss on crap, people will flock to buy bank stock based on huge lie that everyone's aware of!

PS, now do you see why Tim Geithner has to go?

The Turning Point, Maybe

I've been saying for a while now that Obama's needed to take his case to the people for the dire need of the stimulus bill to try to save our economy from a depression. This morning he did so with a WaPo opinion piece.
By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

From a human standpoint, he's right. It's a clear, logical argument. Obama need to take this and take it to the people, take it his Youtube address, take it to the TVs and the radio and the internet. He's starting now. He needs to ramp this effort up quickly.

From a partisan standpoint, the notion that the longer the bill is delayed by the Republicans the more jobs are lost by the Republicans needs to be the friggin' centerpiece of the argument. That's what we need to see Democrats out there saying. Bipartisan playtime is over. The GOP is trying to sink the country to get back in power. It's time to call them on it and smash them down for it.

Tomorrow morning we'll see the monthly job numbers for January. They are going to be hideous. Another half a million jobs lost at least, and maybe far more. The unemployment rate will near 8%. The U6 numbers will top 14%, nearing the rate of one in 7 Americans lacking a full time job.

Republicans have successfully framed the argument as "tax cuts good, wasteful pork spending baaaaaaaaaaaaaad". The argument needs to be "saving the economy good, tens of millions of Americans unemployed and thousands of businesses closed, really friggin bad." Those January job numbers will be all over the news, and Obama needs to use them to reframe the argument.

That framing is up to Obama. I'm glad to see him moving on this issue. The time to act on the economy, not react to the Republicans, is now.


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