Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's All In Your Head

Apparently you'll be glad to know this economic crisis is a mass illusion, and that if folks like you and me would stop believing it, it will go away.
If you think this recession is the worst since World War II, chances are you weren't born or working during the downturns of the 1970s and '80s, you're listening to President Obama too much or you're a white-collar worker in financial services.

If all three are true, you may even think we’re on the verge of another Great Depression.

At this point, the only thing that may be true is your age and employment status.

“The current situation has nothing in common with the Great Depression,” says economist Steve Hanke of the Cato Institute and Johns Hopkins University. “The sooner they [in Washington] stop spinning the bad news story and say nothing, the sooner we’ll be more confident.”

Hanke is not alone in dismissing what appears to be a potent cocktail of misinformation and doom and gloom, wherein the current recession—now in its 13th month—is already considered worse than the 16-month ones of 1973-1975 and 1980-1982.

“We were pretty scared in ’82; things looked horrible for awhile," says Bob Stovall of Wood Asset management and a 55-year veteran of the securities business. “I don’t think you can say it’s worse than then; its different. You have changed the landscape but you did that in the Midwest when you forced a lot of rust-belt companies to the wall."

“This time it's financial firms going out of business, instead of manufacturing ones, and the jobs are going with them," explains Stovall.

Recessions are like The Game, apparently. If you think about it, you've already lost.

I'm sure things will improve any time now, and it's not anything stupid like the Village happy face media blaming the American people. If the economy improves, it's proof that this is all a mental conspiracy launched by George Soros and Barack Obamuslim and he should be impeached, If the economy tanks, it's proof that this is all a mental conspiracy launched by George Soros and Barack Obamuslim and he should be impeached.

Gotta love right-wing logic.


Steve Benen has declared war on the Senate filibuster.
Calls for reform are becoming more common. Kevin Drum noted yesterday that there's a problem when "a party can win the presidency, the House, and the Senate by landslide majorities but still can't pass big parts of its program because it needs 60 votes in the Senate." The filibuster, he reminded us, was "never intended to become a routine requirement that all legislation needs 60% of the vote in the Senate to pass."

Matt Yglesias, highlighting this chart, explains the history of the tactic, and notes how this is something of an accident. He concluded, "None of this has ever been a good idea. But when it was genuinely reserved as an extraordinary measure, it was a bad idea whose badness could be overlooked. But as it's become a routine matter, it's become a bigger and bigger problem. It needs to be reformed."

Of course it does. Look at that chart again -- does anyone think last year was a fluke? Or is it more likely the Senate minority will meet or exceed the same number of filibusters in this Congress? And the next?

There are competing ideas. Maybe the number can be lowered from 60. Perhaps there can be some kind of limit on the number of filibusters (kind of like NFL coaches having a limit on how many times they can challenge a referee's call on the field). Maybe senators can be forced to actually filibuster bills, the way they used to before it became easy. Of course, the chamber can also scrap the filibuster altogether.

I don't doubt senators from both parties are reluctant to even consider reform. They should do it anyway.

I agree that the Democrats should hold the Republicans to actually filibustering bills. But it's important to note that some bills really do need sixty votes to pass...and the stimulus bill was one of them. It was in fact the waiver of the existing budget, and that requires three-fifths of the Senate to do.

Still, the GOP will in fact filibuster everything else they can unless the Dems make doing so exceedingly annoying.

When You're Losing, Double Down Again

Coming off their embarassing defeat at the hands of Obama on the stimulus package, with the President going out of his way to deal the Republicans in only to have his hand bitten off in a series of petulant tantrums, the GOP has decided to resort to whining like kindergartners.
Top Republican lawmakers Sunday called on President Obama to change his political strategy, arguing that the passage of a massive stimulus bill on a party-line vote showed he has failed to deliver the "change" he promised.

"If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told ABC's "This Week." "I know bipartisanship when I see it."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Obama was off to "a bad beginning," out of step with the vow of bipartisanship both men made after Obama beat out the Republican presidential nominee for the White House in November.

"It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people, that we would sit down together," McCain told CNN's "State of the Union With John King."

We call this working the Village, folks. Nobody outside the beltway is buying this crap, but you'd better believe the insular, clueless Village media is going to eat this up.

The End Of GM?

With the deadline for the auto industry's viability plans looming on Tuesday, it looks like GM's plan will be bankruptcy.
General Motors Corp, nearing a Tuesday deadline to present a viability plan to the U.S. government, is considering as one option a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing that would create a new company, the Wall Street Journal said in its Saturday edition. "One plan includes a Chapter 11 filing that would assemble all of GM's viable assets, including some U.S. brands and international operations, into a new company," the newspaper said. "The undesirable assets would be liquidated or sold under protection of a bankruptcy court. Contracts with bondholders, unions, dealers and suppliers would also be reworked."

Citing "people familiar with the matter," the story said that GM could also ask for additional government funds to stave off a bankruptcy filing.

GM declined to comment, the story said.

Contract talks between GM and the UAW have broken down as well over the weekend, making bankruptcy more likely than ever.

By the end of the week, there may not be a Big Three anymore.

The GOP Is Losing It

I'd argue the GOP never had it, but John Cole over at Balloon Juice puts up an excellent summation of the Republican disaster:
But, for whatever reason, the GOP simply can not figure it out. Michael Steele, the new RNC chairman is busy telling everyone there is absolutely no reason for anyone to trust the GOP, while the rest of them are spending their time running around comparing themselves to the Taliban. The reason Steele felt compelled to announce that the GOP can not be trusted is because everyone agrees they can not be trusted. He was merely stating the obvious. Rather than try to build trust, though, rather than sit back and take a breather, compose themselves, and plot a way forward for both the country and the GOP, the Washington Republicans seem intent on committing seppuku. Instead of rebranding themselves and putting forth an alternate vision, they seem to think that unified obstructionism based on the hope that things get worse is the real way forward for them. And they don’t realize that everyone sees through it.
The rest of the country figured it out...well, most of the rest of the country, anyway. There's still maybe a quarter of the US that believes this crap. But the political middle isn't buying it any more. Seven years or so after 9/11, when the GOP said something, that was the reality both inside and outside Washington. Katrina changed all that. People realized the GOP had no credibility in outside, everyday life anymore. Fifteen months later the Democrats were in charge of Congress, and then another two years put them in the White House too.

Republicans swore up and down that this was the best economy ever, and people started to look at their paychecks and saw the fact they hadn't gotten a raise in four years but in that same period of time their health insurance premiums went up 20%, and their 401(k) lost money. Nobody gives a damn about the Terror Threat Color Code of the day when the biggest employer in the county just laid off 8,000 people with no intention of ever coming back. They realized the GOP is full of shit and has been using them for years. As one friend told me, "We can spend trillions on a war with Iraq, but we can't spend a fraction of that on America."

So now at least Obama is trying. The Republicans are assuming that the Village reality, the one inside the beltway, is the same as in the heartland and the valleys and the plant towns and the farms.

It's not. GOP hasn't gotten that yet.
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