Monday, March 15, 2010

Last Call

Chris Dodd's come through on financial reform, including the long-overdue creation of a consumer financial protection agency.
President Barack Obama's stuttering bid to rein in the largest US banks got a shot in the arm Monday, as a key Senate ally unveiled a package of bank reforms described as the most sweeping in 80 years.

Senate banking committee chairman Christopher Dodd outlined plans to regulate the massive US banking sector, warning an overhaul was needed to prevent another large-scale crisis that the US economy might not survive.

Speaking two years after the investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed -- the opening salvo in a crisis that engulfed the globe -- Dodd called for more government control over "too-big-to-fail" banks and for reform of a regulatory system that "remains hopelessly inadequate."

"If there was a watchdog on duty, it did not bark," Dodd said, outlining reforms.

The packages' highlights include the creation of a consumer protection agency and a powerful committee to monitor systemic risks caused by large firms.

The bill would also clamp down on risky investment instruments, which fueled the crisis, and give shareholders a say on big executive bonuses.
Dodd warned that any efforts to delay reform invited calamity.

"Neither I nor anyone else can tell you with any degree of certainty that the American economy could survive another crisis of this magnitude," he said.

But the reforms have been the subject of fierce lobbying in Washington, with some of the city's biggest political hitters involved in tussles over what the rules should be, and who should enforce them.

Dodd's decision to house the consumer protection agency at the Federal Reserve was met with barely concealed fury by some of his Democratic colleagues who accused him rewarding a watchdog that failed miserably to prevent the worst financial crisis in decades.

In a bid to address some of those criticisms, Dodd said the agency would be headed by a director appointed by Obama, and would have the power to write rules governing all financial entities.
Remember, the Republicans wanted no financial protection agency at all.  In fact, short of Ron Paul, they don't  think the banks did anything wrong to justify new rules to begin with.  No, it's not a perfect bill or even a very good one, but it sure as hell is better than the nothing we have now.  Dodd finally realized that there's no winning argument here defending the banksters.

Now it's time to watch the Republicans squirm and go on TV saying there's no need to regulate the industry that lost us trillions of dollars and then demanded you and I pay for it.

The Language Of The Heath Care Reform Debate

Nate Silver takes a look at the actual word responses that people used in the latest Gallup poll on health care debate.  This latest poll finds 45% would tell their Representative in the House to vote for the current plan, and 48% would tell their Representative to vote against it.  That's about what it has been for the last several months, give or take a few points.

The real story here is what words people use in responding to the poll.  On the pro side, this is a picture of what words people user the most in responding to Gallup pollsters, the larger the word, the larger share of it being used in a response (graphics here from

The con side is just as interesting:

A couple of observations from the above graphics.  Both sides talk about "insurance" and "need" , both sides agree on that, but the pro side is definitely based around the moral argument for.  The words are there: people, need, afford, everyone, better, now, help.

The con side is equally focused on the economic arguments against.  Those words are there too: Government, cost (and costs), pay (and paying), money, work, economy.

The words "public" and "option" are virtually nowhere in the pro side, and abortion is a pretty small word in the con side.  This truly tells you what the heart of the matter is for each side, and what is the semantics.  The pro side wants to improve people's lives.  The con side argues that government will make health care far worse at our expense.

This brings me to a couple of points:  First, if Bush had left us a better economic situation, and a situation where government itself wasn't so reviled and distrusted, a lot of the argument on the con side I think would be muted.  There would be solid support for this bill.  Ironically the bulk of the argument against health care reform is that Obama's government is just as incompetent as Bush's was, or worse.  Bush nearly wrecking the country actually made it harder for Obama to push this plan, and Bush did such a thorough job of it, it's driven this thing down to the wire.  It has even overcome Medicare, Medicaid, veteran's care and the fact all of those already account for a health chunk of our health care in this country.  It's already government-run, and yet the con side ignores that fact.

Second, Obama was right to go after the numbers on this as much as possible, but he's really failed to show how well government health care can work.  Unfortunately, going back to the Walter Reed hospital scandal, Bush again showed America that the potential for abuse and neglect really is there.  That's now being thrown in Obama's face, fair or not.

People good, government bad.  Everything seems to boil down to this these days.

Nancy Lays Down Her Cards

And daring the GOP to try to beat her hand.
In her most expansive case yet for health reform, Nancy Pelosi argued in a small roundtable with bloggers today that passing it into law would set the stage for a great, long-term debate with the GOP over the proper role of government in our lives — and predicted that it would “take the country in a new direction.”

In the roundtable, Pelosi also provocatively hinted that the House planned to enact further health care reforms once this one is passed, suggesting that this is only the beginning.

And Pelosi also brushed off the claim over the weekend by the House’s number two vote counter, James Clyburn, that the House currently lacked the votes to pass the bill.

Pelosi argued that passing reform would give Dems a tool for drawing a sharp ideological contrast with Republicans and conservatives over time.

“Give them credit for being true to their convictions,” Pelosi said. “They don’t believe in health care for all Americans with any public role in it. That’s by and large what the Republican Party believes.”

Pelosi said passing the bill would allow Dems to undertake a “debate” with Republicans over “what is the balanced role that government should have.”

“We have to take it to the American people, to say, this is the choice that you have,” she said. “This is the vision that they have for your health and well being, and this is the vision that we have.”

Pelosi also clarified Clyburn’s claim over the weekend that Dems didn’t yet have the votes to pass reform. “The reason he said that is we don’t have a bill yet,” she said, though she refused to say how many votes she thought she had in hand.

“I have no intention of not passing this bill,” Pelosi said.
Chips are all in on this one.  Pelosi is confident that this is a done deal,. or will be by this weekend.  The reality may be far different, but she's not showing it.  There are still too many uncommitted members of the House Dems to call victory or defeat here, but there are at least a dozen arms that need twisting if not twenty or more.

Can Pelosi pull this off?

Bachmanniac Fought The Law

And the law won.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is going a step beyond simply pledging to fight efforts to pass the health care bill -- she's openly pronouncing that people should personally declare it unconstitutional and defy it, depending on how it ends up getting passed.

At a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol on Saturday, Bachmann declared illegitimate the potential route that House Democrats could take to pass the health care bill. She was specifically railing against a parliamentary tactic by which the House could skip voting on the Senate bill by declaring it passed as part of the reconciliation bill. Bachmann pronounced this to be taxation without representation. "They have just started a revolution -- and they did it," said Bachmann.

"But mark my words, the American people aren't gonna take this lying down," Bachmann later said. "We aren't gonna play their game, we're not gonna pay their taxes. They want us to pay for this? Because we don't have to. We don't have to. We don't have to follow a bill that isn't law. That's not the American way, and that's not what we're going to do."
To recap, Michele Bachmann, sitting lawmaker in Congress, is advocating open rebellion and revolution against a bill Congress may soon pass into law because...she doesn't like paying for it.  An active member of the federal government is preaching the illegitimacy of that government.  Process questions aside, she's a government employee actively telling people to not pay taxes and not follow the law.  Isn't that, you know, illegal?  Can you imagine the calls for resignation from the entire right wing noise machine if a Democrat went to a rally and said the same thing about legislation Bush passed into law?

At what point does Bachmann resign in protest from the government she so clearly despises?

At what point is she forced out by a Minnesota public embarrassed to have as representing them?

The Cheney Game

And while Liz Cheney has taken a serious hit for her "Al Qaeda Seven" attack on the Justice Department where even conservatives are calling out her McCarthyism, Spencer Ackermann reminds us that the real problem is the Village keeps bringing the Cheney Lie Machine on TV in spite of this.
What keeps the Cheney dynasty propelling forward is its relationship with the media. For all the contempt expressed by Dick Cheney over the years at the press, his post-vice presidential career has demonstrated that he knows very well how to manipulate it. He gives interviews to those who have no interest in challenging him like Politico and the Sunday shows, where theatrics can overcome even the occasional alert or tenacious questioner. Those news-venues won’t “take greater pause before trotting out the former vice president,” because what they’re doing is working for them.

So you’d have to change the game up. You’d have to make Fred Hiatt have to constantly answer for hiring Marc Thiessen and you’d have to put the Washington bureaus of the TV networks in a position where their self-regard as professionals is, publicly, at issue. And you’d have to do it in a way that avoids those malefactors preening that their uncritical embrace of intellectual dishonesty is a sign of integrity — after all, aren’t they brave to give a voice to the other side in the debate that the braying left wants to shut down, etc. The Cheneys only matter as much as the media allow them to matter. 
And given the fact that Karl Rove, John McCain, and now Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay are still allowed to peddle their version of the facts, I don't expect that the Cheneys will find themselves black listed anytime soon.

Why would anyone expect anything different?

Endgame On The Eleven-Dimensional Chessboard

The House has officially begun the process to examine the the Senate bill and markup changes that they want the Senate to vote on in reconciliation.
The House Budget Committee on Sunday evening released text that will serve as the base legislation for the changes the House will seek to the Senate bill this week.

Specifically, the Budget committee released a 2,309-page effort that had been previously recommended to the Education and Labor Committee and Ways and Means Committee last year.

The measure posted online does not include the substantive changes to the Senate healthcare bill that House Democrats will seek. Those changes will be offered during the markups in the Budget and Rules committees, which the budget panel hopes to begin on Monday afternoon.

The House is expected to approve the Senate's healthcare bill along with the package of changes. The Senate would then be expected to approve the package of changes under budget reconciliation rules.

Because the bill will be considered under budget reconciliation rules in the Senate, GOP senators will not be able to filibuster the package and Democrats will not need 60 votes to move the legislation through the Senate.

The House has demanded the Senate approve changes to its healthcare bill in exchange for the House voting for the Senate bill.

House Democrats hope to complete their work by this weekend, before President Barack Obama begins an overseas trip he delayed for several days to focus on healthcare.

The markup by the Budget Committee is the first step toward bringing the measure to the House floor.
And after a long, ugly, painful year-plus long battle, we're heading into the home stretch.  When the chips are down and the hands are shown, will the Dems have the votes in the House to pass the Senate bill?  We still don't know.  But this is the week where this will be decided.  President Obama heads to Ohio again to stump for health care reform while the House prepares to go to work this week.

The pieces are in place.  The forces are on the move.  And the final battle is nigh.  Which side will win?  And at this point, what does "winning" mean?

More on that as the week progresses.

Bush Administration Rehabilitation Through Misinformation

Zandardad flagged me up this week's Frank Rich column I missed yesterday, and it's worth discussing Rich's take on the Karl Rove/Liz Cheney puppet show designed to make America forget about the Bush Administration and blame everything, quite literally, on the Dems.
THE opening salvo, fired on Fox News during Thanksgiving week, aroused little notice: Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary, declared that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Rudy Giuliani upped the ante on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in January. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” he said. “We’ve had one under Obama.” (He apparently meant the Fort Hood shootings.)

Now the revisionist floodgates have opened with the simultaneous arrival of Karl Rove’s memoir and Keep America Safe, a new right-wing noise machine invented by Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol. This gang’s rewriting of history knows few bounds. To hear them tell it, 9/11 was so completely Bill Clinton’s fault that it retroactively happened while he was still in office. The Bush White House is equally blameless for the post-9/11 resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Iran. Instead it’s President Obama who is endangering America by coddling terrorists and stopping torture.

Could any of this non-reality-based shtick stick? So far the answer is No. Rove’s book and Keep America Safe could be the best political news for the White House in some time. This new eruption of misinformation and rancor vividly reminds Americans why they couldn’t wait for Bush and Cheney to leave Washington.

But the old regime’s attack squads are relentless and shameless. The Obama administration, which put the brakes on any new investigations into Bush-Cheney national security malfeasance upon taking office, will sooner or later have to strike back. Once the Bush-Cheney failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran again come home to roost, as they undoubtedly and explosively will, someone will have to remind our amnesia-prone nation who really enabled America’s enemies in the run-up to 9/11 and in its aftermath.
Everything that went wrong in Bush's first six years was retroactively Clinton's fault, and everything that went wrong in the last two was the fault of Senator Obama and the Dems because they controlled Congress.  Bush was the best President since Reagan, you see.  This has been going on since Obama took office, frankly.  The Clinton blaming after all did get Bush a second term, albeit barely.  But it also assured that the Dems would win and have to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess left behind.

The Republicans really do hope you're stupid enough to put them back in power in 2010 so they can get back to doing the things that created two wars and a financial disaster that drained trillions of dollars from our coffers, trillions of dollars we didn't have.  Obama hasn't fixed all the problems the Republicans left him, so the GOP argument is that after giving the Dems two years, it's time for another sixteen of Republican rule.

Do you really want these jackasses back in charge?  They're not sorry for their mistakes.  They're pinning them on Obama.  They will repeat them as soon as they are given a chance.


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