Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last Call

Yet another multi-billion dollar bank failure is in the works for this week in Texas as Guaranty Bank of Austin Texas is expected to be seized by the FDIC in the next 48 hours.
Guaranty Bank, an Austin-based savings institution with $13.5 billion in assets, is expected to be seized by the FDIC by the end of the week. According to multiple reports late Wednesday, Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya has won the bidding for Guaranty.

Representatives for the FDIC and Guaranty were not immediately available for comment.

A private equity group led by investor Gerald Ford -- who got a federal bank charter in November so he could buy failed banks -- also reportedly made a bid for Guaranty. Other banks said to have expressed interest were JPMorgan Chase and Toronto Dominion, which made a failed bid for Florida's BankUnited when that bank was auctioned by the FDIC in May.

Guaranty's closing would mark the second-biggest bank failure of 2009, after last week's collapse of Alabama's Colonial Bank, which was seized by the FDIC and sold to regional bank BB&T.

Guaranty reiterated Monday that it doesn't expect to survive following its failure to raise new capital. The bank lost $174 million in the second quarter, according to its latest quarterly report to the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Needless to say, more of these are on the way. We're stuck with all the toxic debts, the banks bid on the assets for pennies on the dollar and get all the benefit.

And it goes on and on and on and on...

Unleash Joe Biden!

He's baaaaaaaaack!

Even as the White House concedes that its options for recruiting Republican support on health care have dwindled, if not passed altogether, administration officials say they have one last weapon in an effort to curry elusive bipartisan support.

Vice President Joseph Biden has, to this point, been noticeably silent in the health care debate, his time consumed primarily with overseeing the stimulus and consulting on foreign policy matters. Now, however, the assets he brings to the debate are of increasing importance and White House aides say he will be deployed by the president in a more strategic matter -- primarily as a bridge between the administration and those recalcitrant Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans critical to reform's passage.

"He has pretty substantial relationships with most members of the Senate who didn't come in this year," said one administration official. "He knows [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus (D-Mont.) well, he knows [Sen. Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa). He knows [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It is going to depend on what the issues are and who he needs to talk to but there is no one who is currently playing a major role that he doesn't have a long relationship with."

Jay Carney, a chief spokesman for Biden, noted that the vice president is set to hold a roundtable discussion with health care professionals and Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this Friday in Chicago. In addition, Carney said, the vice president has been advising Obama privately on the matter over the past few months.

People forget that Biden was brought on to the Obama team precisely because of his long-standing relationships in the Senate and with leaders around the world. It's good to see him being mobilized in this battle finally, but it's something he should have been doing since, you know, March.

The Next Move On The Chessboard

With Democrats emboldened and having located their backbones once again, it's time for the Republicans to throw out another crazy batch of distraction in order to keep the Town Hall Blitzers coming. John Cole certainly called it as the Republicans play the "Free Health Care For Twenty Million Illegal Mexicans!" lie.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday defended critics of Democratic health care reform plans who claim the proposals would provide subsidized health care to illegal immigrants. Kyl said Democrats have long sought to block curbs on public services for people illegally in the country.

“It’s a logical question for people to ask,” Kyl said during a conference call with reporters, maintaining that during last year’s State Children’s Health Insurance Program debate and other legislative fights, Democrats blocked efforts by Republicans to include curbs on health care for illegal immigrants.

Precisely zero of the proposals before Congress include this, but Republicans are going to do everything in their power to whip up more "us vs. them" hysteria by making this an immigration issue.

The GOP is throwing everything in their playbook at stopping health care reform. They are now fully committed to the total failure of the President's entire domestic agenda.

They believe if they sabotage the country, you will vote for them, just like in 2008.

[UPDATE 3:06 PM] The lesson here for the GOP is simple: lie as much as possible.

Details, Details

Steve Benen reminds us that actual details matter about Obamacare.
In the new NBC News poll, people were asked, "From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea?" Just 36% think it's a good idea; 42% think it's a bad idea. The numbers are exactly the same as they were a month ago.

The problem, as we discussed this morning, is that Americans oppose the idea because they've bought into several right-wing lies that are demonstrably false. Chuck Todd raised an important point this morning: "According to our poll, when [Americans] hear the facts, it's another story. After being read a statement that include actual details of the Obama health care plan, a majority -- 53 percent -- say they are in favor of it."

Funny how the program gains 17 points when the GOP misinformation is removed, isn't it? And hey, 53% was good enough to elect a President, right?

And let's also keep in mind that if Obama has no credibility on health care, Congressional Republicans by comparison have less than zero.

Several Republicans seem encouraged by the fact that only 41% of poll respondents approve of the way President Obama is handling health care reform. But let's not overlook the next question: "Do you generally approve or disapprove of the way that Republicans in Congress are handling the issue of health care reform?" Just 21% approve, 62% disapprove.
If the GOP really, really wants to make an issue of health care in 2010, go for it.

Once You Pop, You Can't Stop

I talked about the next housing bubble back last December, a good eight months ago. I've been giving more warnings since then. Turns out I'm far from the only one who believes we're heading right back into the soup again.
The housing market, which already has been battered by the worst collapse since the Great Depression, could be setting itself for another bubble, well-known economist Robert Shiller told CNBC.

With home affordability at a 40-year high, there is "absolutley" a possibility that the housing market will face another bubble in the next five years, said Shiller, an economics professor at Yale, co-founder of MacroMarkets and co-developer of the monthly Case-Shiller home price index.

"The low interest rates, the affordability is leaning that way and the ratios are back down," Shiller said in a live interview. "I get glimmers of excitement among some people, but we still have a high inventory of unsold homes, and we still have a lot of weariness because of the recent experience."

Although the most recent Case-Shiller report showed that US home prices posted their first monthly increase in almost three years, the sector—and the economy—are still a long way from recovery, Shiller said. Another round of stimulus money and revival of the credit markets is the only way the economy will shake out of this rough patch, Shiller said.

"It's clearly not over yet," he said. "It's not obvious that people are really ready to spend again. That may take years to rekindle that normalcy."

And keep in mind Shiller's "normalcy" is in fact a housing bubble. It's where America's been since the early 90's. Every time the housing bubble has burst, the economy has gone south. We keep reinflating it. It made a massive rupture last time, and we're still in a housing depression, now a full-blown real estate depression, because of it.

And now we're trying to recreate and reinflate that bubble once again. And when this one pops, we're really going to know the meaning of the word "depression".

This Is My Rifle

There are many like it, but this one is used to try to intimidate Democrats. Turns out Arizona right wing radio host Ernest Hancock planned out the entire incident with the man carrying the AR-15 rifle at Obama's speech in Phoenix on Monday.
They have a squad - used to be called the confrontation prevention squad, now called community service. We told them that we're going to come down, I'm going to do the radio show live, we're going to be broadcasting it, and I'm going to have a firearm. I had a 9 millimeter on myself...

It was Thursday that I called and talked to Al Ramirez, the representative from the Phoenix police department, and we were discussing - we've been around this rhetoric that was building up around William Kostric, who did this in New Hampshire. We knew this from 15 years ago when Janet Napolitano was a U.S. Assistant Attorney and prosecuted the Viper Militia out of Arizona, and how that was generated into something it wasn't. We talked to Al and we were like, look, we know where this is going and we want to make sure, we come down, we're peaceful, and we demonstrate the right of the people to carry their firearms. And the police protected our right.

They wanted to help - they assigned him [a police officer] to me. He was never more than 4-5 feet away from me. We had law enforcement around us to protect our rights to protect this firearm.

So the whole thing was staged. The Phoenix cops knew, Hancock knew, the whole thing was coordinated to send a loud and clear message to the President.

And not only that, but Hancock is an avid and vocal supporter of the Arizona militia movement as well. Yeah, this is what wingnuts mean by "debate"...bringing rifles to political events in order to make their points.

And of course, it's the kind of "debate" that the GOP is actively encouraging.

So now the Republicans are resorting to bringing firearms to political events in order to influence policy.

There's a word for that, you know. It starts with a T.

Barney, Frankly

Here's a hint for the Town Hall Blitzers. Jewish Congressmen don't like Nazi comparisons.

Just being helpful.

Surprise At The Spines

After years of folding like lawn chairs and giving the Republicans everything they asked for, the revolt against the death of the public option by Democratic progressives has stunned even the jaded NY Times.
Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.

Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed.

“The Republican leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.”

The Democratic shift may not make producing a final bill much easier. The party must still reconcile the views of moderate and conservative Democrats worried about the cost and scope of the legislation with those of more liberal lawmakers determined to win a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers.

On the other hand, such a change could alter the dynamic of talks surrounding health care legislation, and even change the substance of a final bill. With no need to negotiate with Republicans, Democrats might be better able to move more quickly, relying on their large majorities in both houses.
As a friend of mine told me, if Democrats do this, they must be ready to accept the consequences and the responsibility. That's fine and fair. After all, Republicans took responsibility for their screw ups in the Middle East and with Medicare Part D and tax cuts for the wealthy and got tossed out of office by the voters, giving the Dems the largest Congressional margins in generations.

However, I've been saying for months now that the Republicans never had any intention of helping the Democrats pass any health care reform. Not a single Republican was ever going to vote for health care reform with Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, not even for the reform plans Republicans wanted to see implemented, not if it means Democrats get to take credit for reforming health care. It's long-term political suicide for the GOP especially given their current trajectory rejecting minorities. Allowing the Democrats to deliver meaningful health care reform means the GOP is done for for the next couple of decades, minimum.

Rahmbo has figured out the GOP Plan, at least. So has Nancy Pelosi, she's behind this progressive push all the way, and the Republicans have finally made a critical mistake in this battle: they've dismissed co-ops out of hand, allowing the Democrats the political cover and momentum to regroup and start publicly attacking the GOP on the fact that they will never accept any health care reform whatsoever.

The narrative has changed, it's no longer Town Hall Blitz 24/7, but public option versus co-ops, and the Republicans have come out and said "neither." It's one thing to be seen as protecting the country from the Democratic plan, but it's another thing entirely to say "We won't even vote for our own reform proposals." Moderates who were hoping for the Republicans to tone down the Dems' plan and then get behind it are suddenly finding out that the GOP never had any intention to pass a reform plan whatsoever. That's got them annoyed.

And finally, people are seeing that the Democrats are holding firm on something for the first time in recent memory. That alone is worth a significant boost...and people are also realizing that the Democrats really do have the numbers to pass health care reform without the GOP.

And if the GOP isn't willing to go along with any health care reform at all, people are realizing that it's not such a bad plan after all.


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