Monday, August 10, 2009

The Old North State, Forever (A Bunch Of Idjits)

Via BooMan, it seems that advance numbers on tomorrow's NC Birther Poll shows a gobsmacking forty-seven percent of NC Republicans believe Barack Obama is not an American citizen and therefore not the legitimate President of the United States of America, another twenty-nine percent are unsure, and only twenty-four percent believe he is actually an American citizen.

Twenty-Four. Find four North Carolina Republicans. Two are die-hard birthers. One is unsure. That last guy is nervous as hell right now.

Readers may be aware of the fact I was raised in NC-10 in the Hickory area, home of The Odious Patrick McHenry (R-Birther F'ckin Central), and lived there for a good quarter-century. I can tell you with alarming honesty that if anything, that twenty-four percent number is probably a smidge too high in that particular Congressional district. It's probably less than 20%. It might honestly be in the low teens.

That is just damn depressing. Like I've said Birthers, if Obama's not the President, what are you gonna do about it? I'd like to know, so I can warn my parents at least.

It's All Coming Back To You

The head of the South Carolina state Senate committee in charge of investigating GOP Gov. Mark Sanford's use of state resources for business trips believes that Sanford indeed broke the law when he charged taxpayers for first-class international flights.
State Sen. David Thomas, whose budget committee investigated Sanford's flights following reports last month by The Associated Press, sent evidence to Senate leaders Monday arguing the Republican governor violated state laws requiring the cheapest travel possible.

Thomas said Sanford's more expensive flights on two state Commerce Department trips cost taxpayers $13,700 more than the economy class flights available.

Legislators can consider sanctions against Sanford ranging from demanding reimbursement to impeachment, said Thomas, R-Fountain Inn.

"It could be perceived, if it's significant enough and a case can be made of it, to constitute a case for possible impeachment," Thomas said Monday.

Sanford spokesman Benjamin Fox said Thomas' conclusions that the governor broke the law "blatantly overreach and accordingly are, in our view, not correct."

"Before making his claims, it would have seemed fair for Senator Thomas to actually approach our office, as well as the Department of Commerce, to discuss his evidence and his interpretation of state laws and regulations," Fox said in a statement.

Now keep in mind this is Republican versus Republican here. Odds are good Sanford will draw a full state investigation into the case, but the fact a Republican-led group of state lawmakers are recommending sanctions against Sanford is a pretty big deal. There will be pressure for Sanford to resign once again. They weren't ready to impeach the guy over adultery (which isn't against the law). This however is a violation of state law, and presents a whole new batch of problems going forward.

We'll see how this turns out.


TPM takes a look at some wild and crazy claims from health care protesters interviewed on (wait for it) FOX.

Mike Sola, the protester who confronted Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) at a town hall in Michigan last week over health care for his handicapped son, appeared on Fox this morning with some interesting claims.

First, Sola told Fox that "thugs" from Democratic leadership came to his house "in the middle of the night." Then he claimed health care reform would "sentence our families to death."

"If you call my son un-American, your thugs already know where we live. They came to us in the middle of the night," Sola said, speaking directly to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Sola said this "visit" happened the night his tirade against Dingell aired on television. He then threatened to kill "the person" if he sees him on his property.

"All I'm gonna say to the person ... I will use every means available to me, lethal force if necessary," he said. "If I ever catch you on my property I will take the risk of going to prison, but you will never again threaten my family."

He said he reported the incident to the Michigan State Police, who did not immediately return a call for comment.

Later in the interview, he elaborated on why he's against President Obama's health care reform plan.

"What you are doing is sentencing our families to death. We lose the right to life. The old people are discarded. Those who cannot fend for themselves are discarded," he said. "We are American citizens who want one thing: to be heard before you put us down."

Ironically, paranoid schizoid episodes like this are in fact treatable through proper mental health care, which under the House health care bill he'd have access to.

Of course, the commercials are telling him Obama is going to kill people, so it's not really his fault.

He's just the victim here, sadly.

[UPDATE 6:41 PM] Video, once again from TPM.

The Bigger Dimension Of Health Care Reform

Melissa McEwan once again makes an excellent point:
Just this weekend, Iain was saying that he felt like a whole new person after getting treatment for his diabetes (and his mood and ability to concentrate are markedly, observably improved), and I said: "Just think how fortunate you ultimately were that you had the neuropathy. If you'd gone to a doctor with the symptoms of lethargy, anxiety, lack of concentration, and a general feeling of unwellness with no physical symptoms and a round belly, you probably would have been told to lose weight and put on antidepressants. Meanwhile, your diabetes would be killing you."

Shaker Azzy, as you may recall, was continually diagnosed as "fat" and "depressed," even though "I actually had cancer. Of the thyroid. Which had metastasized to my lymphatic system. OOPS!!"

Every thread we've ever had on illness, mental or physical, and healthcare has had fat Shakers testifying to being misdiagnosed or not heard or ignored or told their fat was the problem, even if their weight hadn't changed but their health had, by doctors who refused to see past fat. Every thread has had Shakers testify to putting off preventative care because of shaming about their weight.

How about the personal responsibility of bigoted, fat-hating healthcare providers to make sure they're treating what's actually wrong with their patients, and doing it with compassion instead of creating spaces that are so thick with contempt and hostility that fat people are discouraged from entering them?

Just sayin'.
Agreed. I'm a big guy myself. I don't feel particularly comfortable in doctor's offices anyway (intense dislike of needles) and having grown up with my parents being health professionals working with doctors and hospitals, I had them on my case about my weight for some time. I still do, they worry about me.

I worry about me too. If I go to the doctor and get a checkup (which my health insurance would cover) the doctor would tell me "other than losing some weight you're fine."

I could have told the guy that.

What Digby Said

Yet another episode, this time on Sarah Palin's "death panels":
There are death panels being held everyday in hospital corridors and living rooms across America. It's how we currently ration health care: by who can pay. Unfortunately, because we spend so much health care money on profits for the health care industry, costs are still skyrocketing so that we are going to have to "ration" even more.

But since Good People, Real Americans, have health insurance, only bad people have to worry about this, which is how it should be. The problem is that if the government takes over they're going ration by taking away the Good People's health care and giving it to welfare queens and illegal immigrants who don't deserve it.
The Devil's greatest trick was not convincing mankind that he didn't exist, it was convincing middle-class America that a trillion-dollar industry built from the ground up on denying people health care are the good guys.

Once again, they're not just protesting against their own self-interest, they are literally protesting against their own self-preservation. How's that for a "death panel"? Thousands of Americans die each year because they can't afford heath care. These people want to keep in that way.

That's your damn death panel right there. They are deciding to keep up the killing. They have decided the poor need to die, and they're okay with that.

Can't Stand The Man

Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) is Obama's pick for Secretary of the Army, a well-respected veteran Republican lawmaker who is popular on the Hill and in upstate New York. He should be a shoo-in, not only are Senate Republicans not going to block a fellow Republican, but they're not going to block a Defense Department position in the middle of two wars.

Concerned that their state could become the home for some Guantanamo Bay detainees, Kansas' two Republican senators have placed a hold on the nomination of Rep. John M. McHugh as Army secretary. [...]

Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback are seeking answers from the Obama administration about the possible moves of some detainees to the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The senators have asked the White House for a briefing by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates , Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. or other senior officials.
So, GOP senators are willing to go straight to extortion at this point to interfere with Obama's agenda, keeping permanent blocks on appointments until they get their way.

That's democracy in action, folks. They hate him that much.

In Which Zandar Goes Squee

Tbogg blog linked me! (squee!) Returning favor.

My fifth-stringer political blog self may make fourth-string at this rate.

While you're over there, be sure to read his take-downs of Kenneth Gladney. (It's like watching a World Cup soccer match, and Kenny's looking for a red card on the libs.)

The Spin We're In

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog (who's been kind enough to link us here, appreciate that), finds Politico is blaming the birther stupidity on the messengers pointing it out.
... when it comes to keeping the "birther" questions front and center, [CNN's Lou] Dobbs can't hold a candle to his mocking competitors at MSNBC.

On the same day that Dobbs was shushing Crowley, MSNBC was covering the "birther" issue on "Hardball," "Countdown," "The Ed Show" and "The Rachel Maddow Show." All four shows had touched on the issue the day before, too, along with dayside hosts David Shuster and Tamron Hall, who devoted about six minutes -- an eternity in TV news -- to an interview with birther movement leader Dr. Orly Taitz, beamed in by satellite from Tel Aviv.

... by giving the birthers such a platform -- even to knock them off of it -- is MSNBC giving them more legitimacy than they deserve?

... Fox News has given relatively little attention to the birthers....

Hmmm ... giving heavy coverage to fringe figures whose theories make your ideological opponents look bad.

Gosh, Fox News would never do that, would it?
In which case, Steve goes on to document FOX doing just that time and time again.
To its credit, Politico notes that Fox News has been guilty of the same journalistic sin on occasion, specifically citing the Ward Churchill story.

... Oh, no, wait, it doesn't. There's nothing whatsoever in the Politico story about Ward Churchill, or any other historical footnote who's been a target of Fox saturation coverage simply because he can be used to try to make liberalism look bad.

Nor is there any mention of the fact that Fox's Fox Nation Web site gave the birther story front-page status on multiple occasions...
Which of course is the issue. As I said Wednesday, attacking the messenger is the only course of action they have. Blaming the birthers on the people who report their idiocy is a little like blaming the victims for the crime.

But then again, they do that too. Of course Politico is going to play Spin the Blame on the Liberals. They've done it plenty of times in the past.

Dictionary Problems

Well, judging from Memeorandum, everyone else has something to say about Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer's op-ed in USA Today, so I guess I should analyze it too.
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.

The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.

Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Pretty much three-quarters of the blog linked on that Memeorandum page there up top are complaining about the use of the word "un-American" in that piece and are saying that Nancy and Steny consider dissent to be un-American.

I'm not sure how they're making the jump here, but then again logic isn't your average wingnut's strong point. The sentence clearly says "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." A better word would have been "undemocratic" (which it is) rather than "un-American" (which given the behavior lately, it apparently is not.)

Go figure.

[UPDATE 1:05 PM] As Eric Kleefield notes, the GOP is now playing the "Democrats are questioning our patriotism" card for all it is worth. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer said no such thing, but that of course doesn't matter.

So Crazy It Might Work

Yggy comes up with a plan: Forget pay reform for CEOs, just tax the money instead.
[W]e actually have a well-established method of taking market distributions of income and trying to transmogrify it into a more just, useful, and welfare-enhancing deployment of social resources—taxes and public services. The world of finance has been the main driver behind the growth in inequality at the extreme high end, and establishing additional tax brackets with higher rates would help lean against that trend. So would something like the Obama administration’s proposal to curb the extent to which high-income individuals can shelter income from taxes through itemized deductions.
And it has the added bonus of affecting all those crazy compensation packages in all the industries, not just finance. Look at it this way, if you are making $20 million a year in compensation now and the massive bulk of that is taxed at 35% now, which would you rather see the government do to that package if you had the choice:

Plan A) Get $20 million but be taxed on the stuff higher than $10 million at say, 50% instead of 35%,


Plan B) get my compensation cut to $10 million by the government pay czar, but keep the 35% tax rate.

Plan A, I'm ahead $5 million and so is the government. Seems like a win-win to me. Drop the pay czar, make new tax brackets for the mega-rich if you're going to do stuff like this. I think this is a good idea if done right...which means it'll never happen.

Town Hall Blitz, Part 4

I've talked about Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) a couple of times before, he's the Congressman from Raleigh who isn't holding town hall meetings because of a least one death threat made against him personally. He promised to told one-on-one meetings with constituents last week, and one such meeting Friday turned into a Town Hall Blitz anyway.

TPMDC's Eric Kleefield has been following up on that Friday protest:

These people really do see America as a place that has now been taken over by an illegitimate regime -- note the signs like "Liberal Government + Liberal Media = Tyranny," and "United Socialist States of America." Plus there's a defiance of the home-made shirts of a cracked ACORN logo, with the name spelled backwards to make a new acronym: "Not Really 4 Obama's Communist America." If the government isn't conservative, it's tyrannical.
As I said earlier this morning, conservatives have no problem exercising government power, as long as they are the ones exercising it. Now that this is no longer the case for the first time in 14 years, the government is full of unending tyranny that must be opposed by patriots.
"And we're tired of the government's saying that we're paid and that we're organized. We are not. We're everyday citizens," the man explained "We get together on Internet Web sites to figure out where things are going on, and what's going on -- just like the other side does. And we're sick and tired of this, we gotta take back America now."
Take back America before an African-American president and his army of liberals are allowed to change anything, he means.

If revolution is necessary, well...government is messy. When will the tyranny over the poor conservative white wingnut male end? They honestly believe they are being victimized here by affordable health insurance, folks.

Irony, Now In 55-Gallon Drum Size

I've had several commenters in the last couple of days complain that only "liberal thugs" are causing any violence at the Town Hall Blitzes, and point to the case of one Kenneth Gladney. There are two things wrong with Gladney's situation: the video showing him being "brutallly attacked and assaulted" is fishy as hell, and as Steve Benen reports, the guy has no health insurance because he was laid off.
Yesterday, about 200 conservative activists held a protest outside the SEIU office in St. Louis. Gladney was there -- bandaged and in a wheelchair -- as a featured guest. Some of the activists held signs that read, "Don't Tread on Kenny." Reader R.D. alerted me to this tidbit in the local news account of the protest:

Gladney did not address Saturday's crowd of about 200 people. His attorney, David Brown, however, read a prepared statement Gladney wrote. "A few nights ago there was an assault on my liberty, and on yours, too." Brown read. "This should never happen in this country."

Supporters cheered. Brown finished by telling the crowd that Gladney is accepting donations toward his medical expenses. Gladney told reporters he was recently laid off and has no health insurance. [emphasis added]

Wait, the conservative opponent of health care reform, fighting (literally) to defeat a plan that would bring coverage to those who lose their jobs, lost his coverage because he got laid off?

I'm not in a position to say whether Gladney sustained genuine injuries or whether he's exaggerating for 15 minutes of Fox News fame and a lucrative out-of-court settlement.

Either way, the new right-wing cause celebre needs to take up a collection to pay for his medical bills because he doesn't have health insurance. It's a fascinating sign of the times.

That's correct.

Kenneth Gladney is a hero to people crusading to stop the government from providing affordable health insurance because he was "beaten", chose to seek medical treatment, and has no health insurance to pay for it.

In other words, Kenny doesn't have health insurance because he was laid off and cannot afford health insurance, and he is the symbol of the people who want to keep people like Kenny in that system.

You cannot manufacture this kind of irony. It's thick enough to walk on. You want to talk about voting against your own self-interest, Kenny is apparently voting against his own self-preservation.

Fueled Up

Gas prices are on the rise along with oil being back over $75 a barrel as the "recession is over".
Gas prices continued to climb Monday, with the national average up nearly 19 cents over the last 20 days, according to motorist group AAA.

The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline edged up 0.2 cent to $2.645, according to AAA's daily survey of up to 100,000 filling stations.

Prices have increased every day since July 21, when the national average stood at $2.458 a gallon. During that time, the national average has risen 18.7 cents, or 7.6%.

Gas prices were highest in Hawaii, where a gallon averages $3.179. South Carolina had the cheapest gas prices in the nation at $2.424 a gallon.

The spike comes as the price of crude oil, which is the main ingredient in gasoline, has been pushed higher by signs of economic stabilization and a rally on Wall Street.

At the same time, analysts point out that July and August are peak driving months and that gas prices typically surge during the summer as more Americans take to the roads.

The bubble has to be reinflated, you know. You're just the one paying for it. It's funny. Gas prices go up, people cut back on spending, the economy gets bad news, oil goes down, gas prices fall some, then the cycle repeats...of course the price of oil never seems to go all the way back down to $35-$40 where they were earlier this year.

Everyone's expecting that recovery, and of course prices are going up as that happens. Not much of a recovery, frankly.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

In a guest column at CNN, Al Vivian asks a pretty good question about the conservative reaction to the Skip Gates case:
But within all that time and coverage, there is still one question that is yet to be asked: Why didn't the conservatives support professor Gates?

As practically every conservative on the Judiciary Committee so passionately spoke of at length during the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, legal matters should be decided on the facts alone and not on personal opinions or empathy.

Think about it. If this truly were a post-racial America, as so many of my conservative friends tell me, then wouldn't Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the likes have flooded the airwaves in support of professor Gates?

After all, don't their firmly stated beliefs force them to align with Gates? Aren't conservatives the ones who are always railing against "government intrusion" and "excessive use of government power"?

To which the reply of course is that conservatives are perfectly fine with government intrusion and use of government power if it is used against Dirty F'ckin Hippies, minorities, and women, to stop them from doing things that conservatives don't want those groups to be able to do, i.e. mouth off to a cop, have an abortion, oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, use government safety net programs, etc.

Conservatives are only against government intrusion and excessive use of government power wielded by non-conservatives and/or for non-conservative purposes. Conservatives love big government, after all. The largest part of the United States Federal Government is the Department of Defense. Spending $3 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, cutting taxes for the wealthy and more than doubling the national debt from $5 trillion to $11 trillion plus is a perfectly acceptable conservative thing to do. Obama on the other hand trying to spend a fraction on getting 50 million people health insurance is proof of his fascist tax and spend liberal tendencies, dig?

Here endeth the lesson.

Wanting To Do More

From the San Francisco Chronicle, here's something you don't see very often, a public advocacy group funded by wealthy Americans who want to actually raise taxes on wealthy Americans.
The group, which calls itself Wealth for the Common Good, believes that people who have taxable income of more than $235,000 a year should support restoring their top federal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent - and now, not in 2011, when the higher rate is scheduled to return anyway.

From their Web site:

"Our country is facing the worst economic challenge since the Great Depression and an urgent need to make a long overdue investment in bringing jobs and stability back to our communities. This investment should be paid for, in part, by repealing the Bush-era tax cuts our country cannot afford.

"Those of us with taxable incomes over $235,000 benefited from the upside of the economy during the last decade and profited for eight years from a 2001 tax cut. Now is the time to give back.

"We would see a minimal tax increase - from 35 (percent) to 39.6 (percent), a rate still far lower than the one under President (Ronald) Reagan - but the increased revenue would raise an estimated $43 billion per year."

In other words, those wanting fiscal responsibility can start by rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy now. That's something that Republicans and other "fiscal conservatives" will never consider, of course. That end of the spectrum is not included in the debate. Taxes can never be raised, only "wasteful government programs" dismantled.

Still, it's good to see somebody out there is willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Banking On Overdraft Fees

The financial industry needed hundreds of billions in TARP taxpayer money so that they could charge $38 billion in overdraft fees to customers.
Banks in the United States are poised to make $38.5 billion in customer overdraft fees this year, the Financial Times said, citing research by Moebs Services.

A large portion of the revenue is likely to come from the most financially stretched consumers, according to the paper.

It said the research showed that many banks have increased charges on overdrafts and credit cards in order to boost profits.

The median bank overdraft fee rose this year by one dollar to $26, the paper said, citing the Moebs data.

Well that makes sense. If you've got $5,000 in checking account, you don't have to worry about overdraft fees, now do you?

If you're going paycheck to paycheck however, what banks will do is not deny your ATM/debit card and front you the money, your account goes negative balance, and then every time you use the card you get hit with a $25-$35 fee. So, if the check you write for a bill clears the day before payday for example and you're not watching your account like a hawk, if you go through the day obliviously using your check card you have no clue you're overdrawn until the next time you check your account and see that your morning coffee, your gas tank fill up and that trip to the grocery store end up costing you an extra hundred bucks or more.

Bankers have to get those six or seven digit bonuses from somewhere, you know. If the banks just denied your card the first time, you might not run up huge fees for them and that's not fair to the banks.

It's your fault for being poor!

Sarcasm aside, this is basically banks profiting off the people who can least afford to hand the banks a free gift every time they cut the line too close to the other side. How many of you have said "Man I hope my bill check doesn't clear today, it needs to wait until Friday." I know I have.

The fact they can get $38 billion as an industry over a year out of a $25 fee means they're hitting Americans with this over one and a half billion times a year. That's five times the population of the country. That's $125 as an average for every man, woman, and child in the country per year.

Something's wrong there.

Here's Your Problem With The Village Right Here

A growing number of liberals have already admitted it, but at this point even arch neocons say the best place to get a serious political interview in America TV is The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Conservatives like Stewart because he's providing them a platform to reach an audience that usually tunes them out. And they often find that Stewart takes them more seriously than right-wing political hosts, who are often just using them to validate their broad positions, do. Stewart will poke fun, but he offers a good-faith debate on powder kegs — torture, abortion, nuclear weapons, health care — that explode on other networks. "Shepard Smith did the same discussion [on torture]," says May. "He kept yelling me at me: 'This is where I get off the bus! Not in my name!' He wasn't arguing with me. It was just assertions and anger. That's not what Jon deals in."

To be sure, Stewart wants to outsmart and discombobulate his conservative guests. He loves catching them in inconsistencies. "I feel like you just trapped me," a grinning Kristol told Stewart, after Kristol conceded that the government provides "first-rate" health care to American soldiers. "I just want to get this on the record," said Stewart. "You just said ... the government can run a first-class health-care system." (Asked about Stewart, Kristol e-mailed back: "I enjoy being on the show, don't mind serving as his punching bag, and am happy to do my little bit to broaden his horizons.") But conservatives respect the rules of engagement. They're trying to trip up Stewart just the same. Says May: "As soon as we finished, he leaned forward and said to me, 'I can't believe you got me to say that Harry Truman was a war criminal.'" (Stewart later recanted.)

"Maybe he's discovered that interesting discussion attracts viewers," suggested Bolton. But it's more than that. At the end of the day, the spirited debate on The Daily Show doesn't leave people feeling queasy or upset — and that includes the guests with whom Stewart spars.

To repeat, conservatives feel that the best, most challenging, most fair-minded and most intellectually stimulating interviews on television right now are being conducted by a stand-up comedian. I've got nothing against Jon Stewart, I happen to agree with neocons like Bill Kristol and John Bolton about Stewart, he really is one of the smartest interviewers out there right now.

It's the fact that an industry of trained journalists are now nothing more than vapid talking heads that couldn't out-argue a sack of potatoes, there to spit out talking points. The best guys in the deck at this point ARE the comedians: Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Bill Maher. These are the guys asking the hard questions. It's hysterical.

And the Village wonders why the news industry is falling apart financially. Jesus wept.

The Kroog Versus Worst-Case Scenarios

Paul Krugman has a very interesting theory this morning in his column: since we've averted the worst-case scenario on the economy (so far), it's time to admit how America did it: Big Government.
So what saved us from a full replay of the Great Depression? The answer, almost surely, lies in the very different role played by government.

Probably the most important aspect of the government’s role in this crisis isn’t what it has done, but what it hasn’t done: unlike the private sector, the federal government hasn’t slashed spending as its income has fallen. (State and local governments are a different story.) Tax receipts are way down, but Social Security checks are still going out; Medicare is still covering hospital bills; federal employees, from judges to park rangers to soldiers, are still being paid.

All of this has helped support the economy in its time of need, in a way that didn’t happen back in 1930, when federal spending was a much smaller percentage of G.D.P. And yes, this means that budget deficits — which are a bad thing in normal times — are actually a good thing right now.

In addition to having this “automatic” stabilizing effect, the government has stepped in to rescue the financial sector. You can argue (and I would) that the bailouts of financial firms could and should have been handled better, that taxpayers have paid too much and received too little. Yet it’s possible to be dissatisfied, even angry, about the way the financial bailouts have worked while acknowledging that without these bailouts things would have been much worse.

The point is that this time, unlike in the 1930s, the government didn’t take a hands-off attitude while much of the banking system collapsed. And that’s another reason we’re not living through Great Depression II.

Last and probably least, but by no means trivial, have been the deliberate efforts of the government to pump up the economy. From the beginning, I argued that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the Obama stimulus plan, was too small. Nonetheless, reasonable estimates suggest that around a million more Americans are working now than would have been employed without that plan — a number that will grow over time — and that the stimulus has played a significant role in pulling the economy out of its free fall.

All in all, then, the government has played a crucial stabilizing role in this economic crisis. Ronald Reagan was wrong: sometimes the private sector is the problem, and government is the solution.
My argument is that the stimulus package has yet to be accompanied by real regulatory safeguards that will prevent the next crisis from happening. But I absolutely agree with Kroog that the stimulus package has prevented a worst-case scenario, at least for now.

My fear is that the lack of regulation reform makes that worst-case model likely down the road, and that's a more important component of government than the spending in the long run (short run of course, it's the money, stupid.) Whether or not you want to see a larger package or not, long-term, we do need fundamental reform of the banking system. That reform is not here yet, and it's looking increasingly likely that it will not be happening as the public appetite for reform the banksters is running into the conservative cry that government is the enemy.

Conservatives may be pushing the evil government theory to fight Obamacare, but the fact that the massive anti-government push is tamping down the desire to regulate the big banks as well is no coincidence, either.


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