Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Last Call Plus

What the hell is Ezra Klein talking about?

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum are chewing over the hefty bipartisan support Bush got for his various domestic initiatives. The roll call is impressive: No Child Left Behind, the 2001 tax cut, the post-9/11 war resolution, Sarbanes-Oxley, McCain-Feingold, the Iraq war resolution, the 2003 tax cut, the Medicare prescription drug bill and the bankruptcy bill.

To make a bit of a heretical point, most of those cases prove that Bush's domestic agenda was a capitulation to liberalism, not that Democrats were spineless wimps. NCLB and the Medicare prescription drug bill were both longtime Democratic ideas. The problem with NCLB was implementation, and while the problem with Medicare Part D was that its design was a giveaway to drug companies, it was also hundreds and hundreds of billions funneled towards the largest expansions of Medicare since the program's creation. Health-care reform, in particular, would likely be impossible if the prescription drug benefit hadn't been accomplished. There'd be no way to add that money to the bottom line of the bill and pay for everything. Democrats owe Bush a debt of gratitude for tossing that onto the deficit.
No Ezra, this actually proves three things:
  1. The Overton Window is far to the right in hindsight that Dubya's country club moderate Republicanism douchebaggery counts as liberalism these days.  That's a problem both with the Village and with the Democratic party's lack of progressiveness as a whole.  Just because Bush bankrupted the nation by spending trillions we didn't have doesn't make it liberalism, it makes it stupid.
  2. Democrats are still spineless wimps.  They're even dumber that they thought Dubya was going to share credit with them.  If anything, the Wingers blame the Democrats for all the things Ezra listed (and Bush too.)
  3. Ezra's been staring into the abyss a wee bit too long, not only is it staring back, it's writing posts for him.

Last Call

Some House Dems actually want Wall Street to pay America back, the stupid bastards.
A House bill still being drafted aims to raise $150 billion each year to pay for new jobs.

Under a bill being drafted by Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), the sale and purchase of financial instruments such as stocks, options, derivatives and futures would face a 0.25 percent tax.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, is titled the “Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act of 2009.”

Half of the $150 billion in tax revenue would go toward reducing the deficit, while the other half would be deposited in a “Job Creation Reserve” to support new jobs.

The job fund would be available to offset the additional costs of the 2009 highway bill and other legislation that creates jobs.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are looking for ways to create jobs after the nation’s unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October and job losses are expected to rise.
Republicans of course will argue either that all the money should go to deficit reduction, or that Wall Street banks will simply skip town and thousands of jobs will be lost as a result.  That's utter nonsense, because Wall Street has paid good money to have have Obama hand them trillions, and they're not about to leave all that behind.

The bill will never get to the President's desk, as a matter of fact even should a miracle happen and the bill pass the House, the Senate will ignore it.  Washington fat cats aren't about to tax themselves, you know.  That's for us little people.

Star Power Drain

Howard Fineman argues that Bush/Cheney did so much damage to America's rep that not even Obama's presence can fix the perception.
Obama’s role as the elegant, path-breaking, intercultural celebrity is not enough to reverse a steady erosion of our global dominance — especially not if he’s seen merely as a new hood ornament on an economic clunker.
My concern is merely anecdotal. But I have been collecting anecdotal evidence for decades. It’s what I do for a living.

I was in London and Paris last week while Obama was making his first trip to Asia. I kept paging through the local papers for stories about the trip. They were only few — almost none. He was all but invisible, except when bowing deeply to the emperor of Japan. There weren’t many stories about the United States, either.
Wait, so we've gone from the complaint that Obama's too much of a rock star to now saying that Obama just doesn't have the international star power to raise America's ruined profile?  Will the Village press make up its mind, please?  Six months ago it was "Obama is a celebrity".  Now the complaint is he's not a celebrity enough.

What's unsaid by Fineman of course is who does qualify as celebrity enough.  Perhaps he means Moose Lady.  But he does go on to say that the damage that Bush/Cheney did to our economy has proven to be too much for Obama to merely fix in one year and that the world's investors are looking to other places than Wall Street to invest these days.

How unfortunate the President has failed to fix America in his first ten months in office.

Suicidal Tendencies

Kentucky police say that census worker Bill Sparkman comitted suicide as part of an elaborate insurance fraud scheme.
The bizarre details of the death caused a firestorm of media coverage and widespread speculation on the Internet, including that someone angry at the federal government attacked Sparkman as he went door to door, gathering census information.
There has been some anti-census sentiment in the country this year, and Sparkman apparently tried to capitalize on that with his ruse.

If there had been no writing on his chest and his identification hadn’t been taped to him, police could have concluded more quickly that Sparkman’s death was a suicide, Rudzinski said.

Instead, it took considerably more investigation to rule out homicide. Police even analyzed the ink on Sparkman’s chest to see how the letters were applied, in order to determine whether it was more likely that someone else wrote on him or he wrote on himself.

Tests indicated that the letters were applied from the bottom to the top — not the way an assailant facing Sparkman would write them. Police concluded that Sparkman wrote on himself, Rudzinski said.
Ultimately, there was no evidence to point to murder, she said.
So that's it then.  Sparkman killed himself, and tried to play off anti-government hysteria.  No doubt this will be seen as a vindication of that hysteria, of course.  But it seems the only person in this case who criminally killed anyone was Bill Sparkman.

What drove Sparkman to this conclusion of his life?  Why the anti-government "FED" scrawled on his chest?  Why such a dramatic death?  Kudos to the Kentucky State Police for getting to the bottom of this mess...but there are far more questions now than before.

And before the Wingers start getting too smug, let's not forget who thought Sparkman was killed by teenage rap fans or that Sparkman was murdered because he was a pedophile.  Turns out Sparkman was the only terrorist, and preying on that fear in order to sell his death as a suicide for the insurance money.  I was wrong about Sparkman's murder, but so were those on the Right determined to destroy Sparkman for political gain.

Any way you slice this story, it's still pathetic.

No Hospital Left Behind

If you want to know what the White House is really thinking about health care reform right now, all you need to know is that Rahmbo assigned this Ron Brownstein post from the Atlantic as must-read to administration staffers. 
Both the Senate bill's priority on controlling long-term health care costs, and its strategy for doing so, represents a validation for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). When Baucus released his health reform proposal last September, after finally terminating months of fruitless negotiations with committee Republicans, Democratic liberals excoriated his plan as a dead end. And on several important fronts--such as subsidies for the uninsured, the role of a public competitor to private insurance companies, and the contribution required from employers who don't insure their workers--Reid moved his product away from Baucus toward approaches preferred by liberals.

But the Reid bill's fiscal strategy, and its vision of how to "bend the curve," almost completely follows Baucus' path from September. Baucus' bill was the first to establish the principle that Congress could expand coverage while reducing the federal deficit; now that's the standard not only for the Senate but also the House reform legislation. And, perhaps even more importantly, the Reid bill maintains virtually all of Baucus ideas' for shifting the medical payment system away from today's fee-for-service model toward an approach that more closely links compensation for providers to results for patients. In the Reid bill, there is some backtracking from Baucus' most aggressive reform proposals, but not much.
In other words, the White House has decided that the most important priority is not covering Americans, but lowering the cost of health care...which is basically the GOP approach to reform.
The Baucus delivery reform ideas revolved around two central aims. One was to reward Medicare providers who deliver care more efficiently and penalize those that don't. The Reid bill upholds the major proposals Baucus offered to advance that goal. For instance, hospitals under current law must report on their performance in treating patients for common conditions like heart problems and pneumonia; under the bill, their Medicare payments, for the first time, would be affected by their ranking on those reports. Hospitals would also be penalized if they readmit too many patients after surgery or allow too many to acquire infections while in the hospital itself. Another provision would begin the process of applying such "value-based purchasing" toward other providers like hospice providers and inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

With physicians, the Reid plan takes a step back from the Finance Committee bill but still a long step beyond current law. The Finance Bill proposed automatic reimbursement reductions for doctors who order up the most care for Medicare recipients with similar medical and demographic characteristics. That was meant to respond to the research showing big disparities in spending on medical services for similarly-situated patients in different communities. But, Democratic sources say, that proposal ran into charges that it would promote rationing-and even function as "a death panel by proxy"-by compelling doctors to arbitrarily reduce care. So the final bill takes a less direct route toward a similar end. It requires Medicare to begin studying the utilization patterns of doctors participating in the program. And then it establishes a "values based payment modifier" that would, in a budget-neutral manner, increase reimbursements for physicians found to deliver high-quality care at lower cost, and reduce them for physicians at the other end of that spectrum. "It will, we believe, have the same net effect [as the original proposal]," said the Democratic aide. "It should change behavior around that threshold."
If this sounds familiar, it should:  it's No Child Left Behind as applied to health care.  This is what Rahm Emmanuel considers to be essential policy analysis reading.  This is what the White House wants out of health reform.

After all, NCLB is working out beautifully, isn't it?  Going away from "liberal" principles to make sure that the most important priority is health care delivered as efficiently and cheaply as possible.

Think about that.

More Sacrifice, Please

David Brooks just can't seem to understand why America would want to be known as the country that fixed health care when it can continue to be the country where the poor are sacrificed to the wealthiest one percent, as he spews forth a Randian parable this week.
Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.

We all have to decide what we want at this moment in history, vitality or security. We can debate this or that provision, but where we come down will depend on that moral preference. Don’t get stupefied by technical details. This debate is about values.
If you're a Villager reduced to talking about values, you've lost the argument some time ago.  But David Brooks wants to talk about one value in particular:  sacrifice.  So far in the health care debate, those who cannot afford health insurance are the ones making the sacrifices.  Brooks admires that ethic so much that he gladly wants those sacrifices to continue rather than rob America's insurance companies of their precious bodily fluids vitality.

America's serfs should be happy being serfs, not asking for the scraps from the Lord's table.  The Lord is wise enough to know when to give the scraps out, and it is not your place to ask in Brooks's world.  You must continue having tens of millions of Americans without health insurance, or something bad might happen in the future!

He's just looking out for us, you see.

Control Issues

Perhaps Republicans should go back to the drawing board on their strategy to attack Democrats on health care.
Judging from the rhetoric in the first day of debate, it would appear that one word is testing well in internal Republican focus groups: "arrogant," which is how they repeatedly described the Democratic approach. On Sunday, minority leader Mitch McConnell was at it again, telling CNN that he does not believe Democratic moderates will allow the bill to pass without significant changes: "I believe there are a number of Democratic Senators who do care what the American people think and are not interested in this sort of arrogant approach that everybody sort of shut up and sit down, get out of the way, we know what's best for you."
Coming from a group of elderly white men whose entire political party is built on telling Americans exactly what they are allowed to do and not do with their bodies, particularly women, that's actually laughable.

It's a nice try, Mitch.  Really.  Snerk.  Republicans would never be so arrogant as to tell a woman what she's allowed to do with her uterus, for example.

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming

The WSJ tells us this morning that 23% of U.S. homeowners now owe more on their home than the home is worth, including some 40% of mortgages taken out in the last few years.
The proportion of U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth has swelled to about 23%, threatening prospects for a sustained housing recovery.
Nearly 10.7 million households had negative equity in their homes in the third quarter, according to First American CoreLogic, a real-estate information company based in Santa Ana, Calif.

These so-called underwater mortgages pose a roadblock to a housing recovery because the properties are more likely to fall into bank foreclosure and get dumped into an already saturated market.
And even more bad economic news, 3rd quarter economic numbers were revised downward from 3.5% to 2.8%.

What recovery?

Home prices are going to keep dropping into 2011, unemployment will continue to rise, and if Obama's suddenly serious about balancing the budget, we'll be back in another recession before the end of next year.

Boy things are just getting better and better around here.

StupidiNews Focus

A double StupidiNews Focus today for two big President Odubya moments:

First, The Nation's Jeremy Scahill informs us that we're running a Dick Cheney-style black bag program with Xe (formerly Blackwater) to kidnap and assassinate high value targets in Pakistan.
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.
And people wonder why we're not doin' so hot in Pakistan.  We're running three wars here: one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and one in Pakistan, an operation so high up that not even the Afghanistan folks know what's going on.

And we're using Blackwater?  Really?  Who in the Obama administration knows about this?  Who's running it?  How much does Obama know?  Did somebody bother to tell Congress we're at war with Pakistan?

Oh, and secondly, we're going for the Surge in Afghanistan, too.
As it now stands, the plan calls for the deployment over a nine-month period beginning in March of three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., and a Marine brigade from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.
In addition, a 7,000-strong division headquarters would be sent to take command of U.S.-led NATO forces in southern Afghanistan — to which the U.S. has long been committed — and 4,000 U.S. military trainers would be dispatched to help accelerate an expansion of the Afghan army and police.
Boy I'm sure glad we didn't elect McCain/Palin into office.  They might have expanded the war into Afghanistan and Pakistan, not like Obama.

I mean, Odubya.  Really, Barry?  Covert Blackwater black bag jobs in nuclear-armed Pakistan?  Another 34,000 troops in Afghanistan will solve the problem after 8 years?  Has it occurred to you that you might have been voted into office to get us out of both countries like America wants?

This is getting tiresome.


Related Posts with Thumbnails