Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Hey the stock market's up! We're saved!

"Don't count on a consumer-led recovery."

Umm...crap. Case in point, who does that leave, big business?

"U.S. output plummets, manufacturing at record low."

Double crap.

Running Vs. Bunning

While the name most KY Democrats hear as the person to run against Jim Bunning next year is Bob Mongiardo, it looks like Rep. Ben Chandler is interested in the job too.
Chandler says he's being encouraged by supporters and he's been approached by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee about a possible run next year.

Chandler, a Democrat, was at the Kentucky Capitol Friday and had a meeting scheduled with Gov. Steve Beshear. He said they were planning to talk about a variety of issues and politics may be one of them.

Beshear confirmed their meeting, but declined to say specifically what they were talking about.

Chandler is the grandson of Kentucky political icon and Major League Baseball commissioner Happy Chandler. He is a former Kentucky attorney general and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2003.
Either way, Bunning is in trouble in 2010. Keep an eye on this race.


As the theory goes, any and every event is either good for Republicans, bad for Democrats, or both. Case in point: The AIG bonuses scandal guessed it, bad for Obama and the Democrats.
The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Obama’s agenda.

The administration’s sharp rebuke of the American International Group on Sunday for handing out $165 million in executive bonuses — Lawrence H. Summers, director of the president’s National Economic Council, described it as “outrageous” on “This Week” on ABC — marks the latest effort by the White House to distance itself from abuses that could feed potentially disruptive public anger.

“We’ve got enormous problems that need to be addressed,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, said in an interview. “And it’s hard to address because there’s a lot of anger about the irresponsibility that led us to this point.”

It doesn't matter what the event is, it's bad for Democrats, good for Republicans, or both. Stock market goes down, it's Obama's fault. Stock market goes up, Bush is responsible. Price of gas goes up, Obama's environmental and foreign policies are driving up oil. Gas goes down, free market principles employed by Bush are working.

Anyone can play, and only Democrats can lose. Remember, In The End, It's Somehow Always The Democrats' Fault.

Think You're Safe In An Apartment?

...from the housing crisis? Think again (h/t Atrios).
Nicholle Krause first noticed the weeds sprouting in the usually well-manicured grounds of her 320-unit apartment complex in Chandler, Ariz., in December. Soon, signs of neglect began multiplying: Garbage spilled over from the dumpsters, the water in the swimming pool turned a slimy pea green and the grounds were infested by swarms of bees — especially alarming because Krause is severely allergic to bee stings.

“I couldn’t even go outside to enjoy where I live,” said Krause, a 21-year-old office worker who pays $827 a month for a one-bedroom apartment with garage space. “I shouldn’t have to pay $800 a month to live in a … hole.”

It wasn’t until early March that Krause and other residents learned why the complex – the alluringly named Alante at the Islands — was rapidly going to seed. The property owner, Irvine, Calif.-based Bethany Holdings Group, had abandoned the complex and a dozen other large rental properties in the greater Phoenix area after defaulting on hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.

As panicked renters in Arizona began holding public meetings to explore whether they could walk away from leases, recoup security deposits or sue, it became clear that the scale of the mess was far larger than they had realized. Companies under the Bethany umbrella owned at least 60 — and possibly many more — large residential complexes across the nation, all of which are now believed to be in bankruptcy or receivership, potentially affecting tens of thousands of renters.

The Bethany Group meltdown highlights how few protections exist for renters caught in the foreclosure crisis. That’s a situation that some experts say is becoming much more common.

Large apartment complexes are owned by companies who own multiple complexes (I know mine is). These companies have been hit just as hard as homeowners by falling real estate values. They're losing money and are unable to by law in most states to jack up rental prices to make up the difference precisely because values are falling. Some are going under. They are taking thousands, if not millions of apartment renters with them.

You're going to see a lot more of this in 2009. Know who you're writing the checks to if you rent. Do some research. If your rental group landlord goes under, you're out on the street even if you've never been a day late on the rent. Know what the laws are in your state.

Find out what renters' legal protections are in your state now if you're a renter. Strongly consider paying on a monthly basis instead of tying yourself down to a lease.

With this job market and corporate landlords going under, you need flexibility right now.

Heavy Is The Head Tha Wears The Pants In The Family

Mixed (and horribly slaughtered) metaphors aside, breadwinners are worried about their jobs.
Thirty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday morning said unemployment is the most important economic issue facing the country today, almost three times higher than the 13 percent who felt the same way last April. Inflation is second at 20 percent, followed by the mortgage crisis at 16 percent, the stock market at 14 percent and taxes at 11 percent.

Last April, 47 percent of poll respondents said rising prices and the rate of inflation were the most important economic issues facing the country, putting that at the top of U.S. economic concerns.

"Last spring, Americans were spooked by rising gas prices," said Keating Holland, the CNN polling director. "Now they're spooked by high unemployment figures and the growing concern that good jobs aren't available."

I forsee that number going a lot higher in the next few months as unemployment increases.

The Last Ten Years In Economic Journalism Explained

...expertly by Steve Benen.
I see. Just so we're clear, here's a helpful guide to the rules of market watching, as they relate to partisan politics:

When the market went down on Bush's watch before the 2008 elections, this was Bill Clinton's fault.

When the market went down on Bush's watch between November 2008 and January 2009, this was Barack Obama's fault.

When the market went down during Obama's first seven weeks in office, this was definitely Barack Obama's fault.

And when the market rallies on Obama's watch during the second week in March, George W. Bush deserves at least some of the credit.

Or to put it even more simply, Village Rule #1: ITEISATDF: In The End, It's Somehow Always The Democrats' Fault.

Needless to say, new tag.

Fish In A Barrel

Josh Marshall has a decent point about AIG's bonus story over the weekend:
Few exchanges have so captured the disconnect that makes this situation so politically explosive. We're collectively taking our country's future in our hands, spending vast sums of money to keep these companies from suffering the consequences of their own folly and (in many cases) criminality. And in return we're receiving cavalier dictates about pay-outs and bonuses from executives who by any reasonable measure work for us -- dictates we promptly accede to. There's a beggars can't be choosers problem there. And the disconnect is so mighty that it fuels the impression that the whole enterprise is not what it seems, not what we've been told, that in addition to picking up the tab we're being played for fools.
And while that's correct, the real problem with AIG is that CEO Edward Liddy can actually tell Timmy and Ben to go intercourse themselves with farm implements because AIG really does have the global economy over a barrel. If AIG goes under, the global financial system goes under with it. Period. Checkmate.

So nothing will be done in the long run. We'll continue to shovel money into the AIG furnace and shut the hell up like good little boys and girls, or the counterparty system will annhilate the entire system of global finance, leading to a total collapse of the whole pyramid. Lehman Bros. was allowed to die, and as a result the global banking system nearly went under. It will not be allowed to happen again with a much, much larger company like AIG.

AIG knows it can do whatever it wants to do right now. It's bulletproof. If it wants to give bonuses, it will. Honestly, what's the government going to do about it? Let the largest insurance company in the world go bankrupt and collapse the world?

Ask yourself how AIG was allowed to get this large and this important in the first place: complete failure of Federal oversight. Those are the people we need to be angry at here, not just AIG...Democrats and Republicans alike.

[UPDATE] Obama is trying to pursue "every legal avenue" to block AIG's bonuses. There's really not much the government can do, frankly, short of mass firings and forcing AIG to break contracts to employees.

[UPDATE 2] Or as Atrios says, if it's a problem, just nationalize the assholes already. If Marcy Wheeler is right over at Fire Dog Lake, they're basically extorting billions from us with this little bonus plan. Pay up or else, they say. The "or else" needs to be "We own you and we're firing all of you. Now."

Why We Need Real Health Care Reform

The US may spend the most per capita on health care, but health care is a much more efficient and cost-effective process in every other major country -- including Brazil, China, and India.
U.S. workers and employers get 23% less value from their health-care spending than those in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, or Japan, and 46% less value than in Brazil, China, or India, according to a Business Roundtable study that examined the cost and performance of the U.S. health-care system.

That value gap exists even though the U.S. spends far more on health care per worker than the other countries examined. The study, released on Mar. 12, found that for every dollar the U.S. spent on health care, Britain Canada, France, Germany, and Japan spent 63¢, yet the health of the U.S. workforce lags by 10% on a composite measure. As for Brazil, China, and India, they spend just 15¢ for each U.S. dollar spent, yet the health of the U.S. workforce lags behind those three by 5%.

And despite all that, nearly one out of every six Americans lacks health insurance period. Big Pharma and Big Insurance has turned the industry into a complete joke. We're the laughing stock of the world, spending nearly $600,000,000,000 a year on health care, and yet we still have millions of Americans who can't afford to see a doctor.

It's gotten to the point where even Big Business is sick of paying for health care benefits that only seem to "benefit" drugmakers, hospital chains, and insurance companies. Businesses want to keep the existing model and just "rein in costs" of course, but only a totally new system will fix the problem.

If it's not fixed, businesses will take their jobs overseas in this economy. It's as simple as that.


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