Sunday, February 8, 2009

Last Call

Fresh off his mind-shattering stupidity where he believes government jobs are in fact a sort of mass delusion and the people who earn money at them are in fact getting weird scraps of colored paper, RNC chair Mike Steele doubles down on his cluelessness on This Week with Snuffy.
However, newly-elected Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele believes that government-funded jobs don't count as real employment because "a job is something that a business owner creates."

"What this administration is talking about is 'making work.' ... It's not a job," Steele explained during a Sunday appearance on ABC's This Week. "It ends at a certain point. ... These road projects that we're talking about have an endpoint. ... There's no guarantee that there's going to be more work when you're done that job."

ABC host George Stephanopoulos objected, "We've seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector, just in the last year."

"They come back though," Steele insisted. "That's the point. They've gone away before and they've come back. And the point is, the small business owners take the risks. They're the ones that are out there in the morning putting the second mortgage on the house ... so that they can employ your kids."

Describing the present once-in-a-generation economic crisis as merely "the downside" of a recent period of economic expansion, Steele told Stephanopoulos that all we really need is "tax credits and relief for small-business owners, incentives for people to get back into the credit markets, to deal with the mark-to-market rules that have stymied the banks and deal with the housing crisis."
This guy is the presumptive leader of the party (although the real leaders are El Rushbo, Malkinvania, and the rest of the Wingnut blowhards) and he's embarassingly stupid.

No Mike, the jobs you're talking about "coming back" aren't coming back. They're good middle class jobs being replaced by minimum wage fast-food and service jobs. Most of them are retail positions...and retail has been gutted by this recession. These jobs are going overseas and they're not coming back at all.

But government jobs don't count to Republicans. Government workers are mostly unionized, meaning they are a clear and present danger to Republicans who want us all to be "right-to-work" McDrones, able to be fired at a moment's notice with no benefits or recompense. The idea of collective bargaining, tenure, or a fair wage is poison to the Republican efforts to strip the people of all they have to enrich those at the top of the mountain.

These private sector jobs aren't coming back. They're already minimum wage poverty jobs that trap millions of Americans in a cycle of suffering. With those jobs vanishing at the rate of tens of thousands per day, what pray tell will replace them? Unless the government steps in, they will be replaced by nothing.

But that's what the GOP wants: millions of angry unemployed Americans who the GOP can stir up into a lynch mob to demand more of the same self-inflicted wounds that America has brought upon itself during the Bush years. They want a failed, crumbling economy. They want an angry, misinformed populace. They want a compliant, subservient media.

It makes it so much easier to finish what the neo-cons started under Bush.

Things Come Around

I've been saying it for weeks now, Josh Marshall came to the same conclusion a few days ago, and today Digby has joined the chorus:

Obama's going to be coming to the congress for God knows how many more gazillions in bailouts for the financial system. There are two wars that continue to burn vast amounts of money, not to mention the US global military empire in general. There is the massive federal police state apparatus that has been built up over the past seven years that has to be funded or the terrorists will kill us in our beds. All of these things are sacred and will be funded no matter what, although the Republicans may put up some kind of a token fight against the finacial system bailout and the Democrats may put up a token resistence to military spending. (Sadly, nobody will raise a question about the police state funding.)

Those are things that are considered absolutely necessary and vital government expenditures that can't even be touched, particularly by a Democratic majority, and the Republicans will use them as examples of their responsible leadership. They will say they just have to draw the line at "pork" and "entitlements," which the country just can't afford, what with all the unemployment and all.

They have shown their cards -- they are cynically banking on the economy failing to get themselves back into power. And they have the media (and possibly even the administration) helping them.
And so another intelligent voice hits upon the only logical conclusion to support the GOP's actions, actions that border on what then? Evil? Treason? Who knows. Who knows how many millions will suffer because the GOP is willing to stop any effort to rehabilitate the economy?

It starts with the sabotage of Obama. But it could end with calling the GOP out on being willing to wreck the economy for political gain.

A Way Out For Obama

Not everyone in Washington and the press corp is drinking the GOP Kool-Aid. Frank Rich gives Obama a smart strategy to fight the GOP with a truly populist approach.

The new president who vowed to change Washington’s culture will have to fight much harder to keep from being co-opted by it instead. There are simply too many major players in the Obama team who are either alumni of the financial bubble’s insiders’ club or of the somnambulant governmental establishment that presided over the catastrophe.

This includes Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary. Washington hands repeatedly observe how “lucky” Geithner was to be the first cabinet nominee with an I.R.S. problem, not the second, and therefore get confirmed by Congress while the getting was good. Whether or not this is “lucky” for him, it is hardly lucky for Obama. Geithner should have left ahead of Daschle.

Now more than ever, the president must inspire confidence and stave off panic. As Friday’s new unemployment figures showed, the economy kept plummeting while Congress postured. Though Obama is a genius at building public support, he is not Jesus and he can’t do it all alone. On Monday, it’s Geithner who will unveil the thorniest piece of the economic recovery plan to date — phase two of a bank rescue. The public face of this inevitably controversial package is now best known as the guy who escaped the tax reckoning that brought Daschle down.

Even before the revelation of his tax delinquency, the new Treasury secretary was a dubious choice to make this pitch. Geithner was present at the creation of the first, ineffectual and opaque bank bailout — TARP, today the most radioactive acronym in American politics. Now the double standard that allowed him to wriggle out of his tax mess is a metaphor for the double standard of the policy he must sell: Most “ordinary Americans” still don’t understand why banks got billions while nothing was done (and still isn’t being done) to bail out those who lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.
In other words...Obama's going to have to throw Geithner under the bus, scrap "bad bank" and come up with a real plan to save the banks after selling it as a populist move.

It's risky. But it's clear that Geithner cannot be part of the solution to the economy, for he is too intricately linked to the problem itself. As Rich finishes:
The neo-Hoover Republicans in Congress, who think government can put Americans back to work with corporate tax cuts but without any “spending,” are tone deaf to this rage. Obama is not. It’s a good thing he’s getting out of Washington this week to barnstorm the country about the crisis at hand. Once back home, he’s got to make certain that the insiders in his own White House know who’s the boss.
And the neo-Hoover Republicans are going to bury Obama unless he takes it to the people. Luckily, he's back in campaign mode, and there's still time for the Obama that pitched his way to the Presidency to save the country.

...If he's willing to make the hard choices, that is.

Full Court Press

The Dems are getting crushed. Sunday talk shows had John McCain just unable to bring himself to vote for the stimulus bill because" it's bigger than the New Deal" or something, John Cornyn unable to suport it because "Nancy Pelosi wrote it" and SC Gov. Mark Sanford accusing the plan of being something a "dictator would come up with."

Republicans can lie all they want to, and nobody calls them on it. Until Democrats do (and this is a small start) and do it every time, all the time, they will lose.

That doesn't stop the fact the stimulus as it is looks to be maybe half what it needs to be.

Your Liberal Media In Action

The latest complaint out of your liberal media? Obama's prime time press conference on Monday, a speech on President's Day on the stimulus, and an address to the joint chambers of Congress on Feb. 24th, is going to "cost the networks millions" in prime-time ad revenue.

"His economic stimulus package apparently does not extend to the TV networks," one network exec noted.

Obama's reps have alerted broadcasters that the president will hold a news conference Monday, according to network execs. It's expected to eat up the first hour of prime time; that alone could cost broadcasters more than $9 million in lost ad revenue.

Imagine if the media had complained about lost ad revenue during any Bush speech at any point. You would have wingnuts screaming that the media was corrupt, anti-Bush, and should have all federal funding pulled.

But it's okay to attack Obama and complain about how he's monopolizing TV before he's even made a single prime-time appearance as President.

And does anyone lift a finger? No.

The deck is so stacked against Obama it's pathetic. I honestly believe we'll see at least one major network refuse to cover his appearances. And the wingnuts will chuckle and say "Well gosh, the Liberal media hates him too, is it any wonder why this President has failed?"

[UPDATE] Digby has more on this, as well as a pretty good explanation of the future of America at the hands of the rabid conservative minority: you have to look no further than California's impending collapse.
California is in deep trouble. The state's bond rating is now the worst of all 50 states. They are furloughing workers. The place is coming apart at the seams.

And why? Because the anti-tax zealots have achieved their goal -- a government that is held hostage to conservatives whether in the minority or the majority ---conservatives who will ensure that the government can never function in a way that gives the citizens confidence that it can actually work.

It's useful to think a little bit about that as we see the federal government likewise rigged, and increasingly dysfunctional. Conservatives masquerading as centrists having veto power when the government needs to raise revenue or spend it on anything that might make government seem like a useful institution for anything other than war, prisons and (sometimes) police, is a recipe for chaos.
And I have said this time and time again: the contempt, the hatred, the notion that "Obama is not my President" didn't vanish on November 5. It stayed buried until January 21. It's now back among us in spades.

They want you to hate Barack Obama. They want you to forget conservatism and rampant free market greed caused this. They want you to think the Democrats are to blame. They know the collapse is coming. They are setting up the scapegoats ahead of time.

And when they get control again next time, they will never let go.

Bad Bank Bonanza, Part 2

Looks like Monday's announcement will indeed be a Bad Bank Bonanza for struggling financial institutions.
The new financial industry rescue plan, to be outlined in broad terms on Monday in a speech by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, will not require banks to increase their lending. That is despite criticism that institutions that already received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, either hoarded it or used the funds to acquire other banks.

The incentives to investors could be in the form of commitments to absorb some of the losses from any assets they purchase, should their values continue to decline. The goal is to relieve the banks of their worst assets so that private investors might then provide more capital.

Officials hope that that part of the plan is not labeled a "bad bank" administered by the government, although they expect that some might call it that.

No matter what it is called, the government would assume some of the risk of declining assets at the heart of the economic crisis. But by relying on a combination of private investors and government guarantees, the administration hopes to reduce its exposure to losses and avoid the problem of having to place a value on assets that the institutions have been unable to sell.

A central element of the plan would be a major expansion of a lending facility begun in November by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York when it was headed by Geithner. The program, which was initially financed by $200 billion in Fed money and $20 billion in seed capital from the $700 billion bailout fund, lent money to investors to buy securities backed by student, auto and credit card loans, as well as loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Obama administration officials say they have rejected nationalizing institutions by taking large ownership stakes. They also will not immediately seek additional money from Congress beyond the $350 billion left in the TARP fund.

So, to recap:

  1. Banks don't actually have to increase lending, (but that point is now in dispute as of today)
  2. The taxpayer will now absorb the risk of trillions of bad toxic derivatives,
  3. Private investors will profit while the government assumes the debt and risk,
  4. The government will dramatically expand loan guarantees to insolvent banks,
  5. The government refuses to nationalize the banks in any way.
Other than possibly the first point and the scope, this plan is no different from the Bush TARP plan. It's TARP, only bigger. The Republicans will block it just like the stimulus bill, and when it does pass later on, it will still fail to work.

Months from now we'll be in the same situation. Obama will have to come back for more money later on in the spring. The GOP will laugh him out of the room, and deservedly so.

We're in trouble now. Deep trouble. Pretty soon we'll be past the point of no return.

[UPDATE] Geithner is postponing the Bad Bank announcement until Tuesday, as the Senate will vote on the stimulus plan Monday.
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