Friday, April 2, 2010

Redistribution Of Common Sense

I was going to take down Byron York's latest craptastic op-ed disguised as a "news article" but marindenver of the Rumpies beat me to it.  York breathlessly claims that Democratis Senator Max Baucus has admitted that Obamacare's real purpose was...the Marxist redistribution of wealth! (lightning, scary organ music, perhaps a few bats).
Health reform is "an income shift," Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. "It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans."

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

This may be the most insipid thing I've read all week.  The Boston Herald's Dan Thomasson:
The president apparently has decided that Republicans are irrelevant if not downright obsolete and it is best to ignore them, especially those in Congress. While Barack Obama may have understandable reason to feel that way given the GOP’s solid opposition to much of his agenda, is it wise for him to utterly abandon any real attempt at bipartisanship?
Please note the salient points of that last sentence there: "the GOP's solid opposition to much of his agenda" and the question (and entire article proceeding afterwards) chastising Obama for not being bi-partisan enough.

Despite the admission that the GOP says no to everything he does, Obama is described in the rest of the article as having "kingly arrogance" by "using language sure to increase the animosity level" because he "now sees no need to even pay lip service to bipartisanship".

Because he made a recess appointment.

When I say we need a better pundit class, this is what I mean. 

Fixing The Economy Is Our Most Important National Security Issue, Period

Checking the comments here at lunch, Paul W. asked what we could do about improving the economy in lieu of a new Public Works Administration-style program that won't get through Congress.  One of the things we must do now is serious financial reform in this country.  It's a matter of national security.

The Associated Press reports that the FBI has issued an intelligence  note warning  police that an anti-government group’s call to remove dozens of  sitting governors may encourage others to act out violently. The group, “Guardians  of the Free Republics,” wants to “restore America” by dismantling  parts of the government, according to its web site. Governors receiving  the threat include Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Chet Culver  (D-IA), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), among others.

While much of the rhetoric  from the group resembles the style of patriot  extremist organizations, their concerns seem to stem directly from  economic anxiety. The group’s broadcasting affiliate, Republic Broadcasting Network,  advertises survival kits, gold buying guides, and other hallmarks of a  movement in America which believes that the country is heading towards  economic collapse. The website also promotes tea party protests,  calls for revolution, videos from Glenn Beck, and  sympathetic articles about recent right-wing domestic terrorist  activities, like the suicide  attack on an IRS building in Austin earlier this year.

Guardians of the Free Republics’ call to dismantle the government has  gained traction on right-wing tea party websites. The groups’  proclamation is posted on ResistNet,  the popular tea party forum, as well as Tree  of Liberty, a tea part forum known to have been frequented  by users which supported Hutaree, the Christian militia recently arrested  in Michigan. 

Yes, domestic terrorism is a clear and present danger right now in America.  It's being made worse by the economy.

A Department of Homeland Security reportridiculed  by Republican lawmakers last year, details that extended economic  downturn with real estate foreclosures, unemployment and an inability to  obtain credit could foster an environment for extremists to recruit new  members who may not have been supportive of these causes in the past.  Indeed, the New York Times reported  last weekend that many of the tea party and other anti-government  protesters have been “jolted into action by economic distress” and are  themselves unemployed or facing underwater mortgages

As another famous Democratic President once said, "It's the economy, stupid."  And right now the economy is acting as a force multiplier for domestic terror threats in the United States.  Which brings us to Paul's question:  what can Obama and the Dems do to fix the economy?

Passing a real financial reform bill with teeth has to be priority one now.  The problem is we have to have a financial reform bill that passes our Republican overlords.

Treasury  Secretary Timothy Geithner said Friday he believed the Senate was "very  close" to a financial reform bill that protects consumers and limits  financial company risk taking that will win Republican supporters.

"We're very close on the substance,"  Geithner told Bloomberg Television in a live interview.

"I think that if you listen carefully,  you'll see Republicans moving our way on this because it's very hard,  given the damage caused by this crisis, for anyone to stand up and say,  'We don't need strong protections for consumers and we don't need to  limit risk taking in the financial sector,'" Geithner said.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman  Christopher Dodd has said he hopes to bring his reform bill to the  Senate floor shortly after Congress returns from its Easter recess on  April 12. The bill had no Republican votes in the committee, but Dodd  hopes to win the backing of a handful of Republicans for Senate passage.

But the Republicans just won't vote for a real reform bill, period.  None of them will.  That might actually help fix the economy.  We've already established that they're willing to see the country burn just to get Obama out of office.  BooMan suggests that it will take the GOP blocking financial reform to break them in 2010.

One way to combat this national mood is to time some very popular  legislation for the fall that is crafted in such a way that it will  guarantee a Republican filibuster.  What we want is for the public to  have the perception that the Republicans are standing in the way of  needed reforms and that the last thing we need is to give them even more  power to block legislation.  To do this, the Democrats need a  sacrificial lamb...something they don't mind seeing go down to a  filibuster.  That's the problem with using the most obvious bill...the  financial services bill.  Do we really want to fail to address the  too-big-to-fail problem?  This is especially hard to contemplate  because, crafted more to the GOP's liking, the financial sector reforms  could become a major bipartisan victory of the type Obama has been  seeking since he came into office.  On the other hand, a bill that is to  the GOP's liking is not going to truly fix the problem.  Decisions,  decisions...

That could be a fatally risky plan.  Without real financial reform, the economy will almost certainly collapse again in the next few years. On the other hand, far worse things could happen if the GOP regains control of Congress again.  Financial reform, real reform, is something we have to have.  But it is the most obvious sacrifice to feed to the GOP's Party of No Machine, and doing so may be necessary to prevent a far worse fate.

Broke And Flat Bus-ted

This LA Times profile of the end of bus service in Clayton County Georgia outside Atlanta shows that cutting taxes cannot be the answer to everything, and cutting services is often even worse on an economy when the economy is bad.
But perhaps nowhere in the country is the crisis more acute than in Clayton County. Officials with the transportation association say the system is the only one they are aware of that has completely shut down due to budget pressure.

It is also a place where a large number of suburban working poor may now be stranded: A survey of riders in April 2008 found that 65% of them do not have access to a car. In a survey last month, 3 out of 4 said they may lose their jobs when the buses stopped rolling.

Much of that worry trundled along with bus 503 as it made the last of its morning tours Wednesday. The 503 route is one of the system's most popular, ending at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where many riders work, and where others catch the regional MARTA train to points north.

Some riders on the 503 said they had arranged carpools with friends and family; others said their homes were within acceptable distance of the stops for the handful of regional express buses that will still run north into Atlanta. But many others were without solutions.
Oh I know, these folks are all too poor and lazy to go get jobs so they can buy cars and not have to depend on the bus to get to their JOBS, right?

It's easy to cut public transportation politically. The only people who are going to complain are the inner city poor, and they don't vote, right? We can save $8 million by eliminating regular bus services, and if a couple thousand jobs in the county are lost and the total damage to the local economy is much more than $8 million, well...that's somebody else's problem. We're being fiscally responsible, we are.

It just hasn't occured to millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas of the country, that things like regular bus service in a city are vital to keeping the economy going. People complain that their tax dollars are going towards things that don't directly benefit them if they live in an area without buses or have a job where they can afford a car and the gas to drive it.

Millions of Americans don't have a car. Some of them can't afford it, some of them don't want a car because...surprise!...the area they live in has regular public transportation services to and from where they work and where they live. But public transportation involves the government, and we've been trained to think that anything the government does is automatically inept, useless, and done as a service to benefit the undeserving leeches of society in order to repress "Real Americans".

This includes bus service to get people who have jobs to their jobs. They will no longer have jobs, a lot of them. And then they will get unemployment or some other government service, rather that working for a living. Great way to get the masses off the government teat there, conservatives.

Look, at some point you have to accept that taxes have to be raised in order to pay for services. But the Club For Growth wackos on the right refuse to even acknowledge that this is even an option in our economy. Clayton Commissioner Wole Ralph explains:
"The only responsible thing to do was to cut the service," Ralph said. "This economy has forced individuals to tighten their belts, and governments have to do it too."
No, that's NOT the only responsible thing. Not when cutting the service costs thousands of jobs.

To recap, in most locations in America, it's a simple majority vote by an elected commission to eliminate bus service and rip a nice hole in the local economy. A tax increase to save the service and keep people working however takes a referendum vote by the entire county, which is doomed to fail anyway.

There's something wrong when a handful of people can make the decision to destroy a local economy, and it takes a majority vote of the people to do anything remotely responsible to save it.

Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing

Remember that whole "Climategate" thing involving UK scientists?  The House of Commons investigated the claims.  Guess what they found?
The first of several British investigations into the e-mails leaked from one of the world's leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved.

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that they'd seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

In their report, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact," adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity." 
Thanks for playing, Wingers.  Enjoy the home version of "Manufactured Outrage Makes You Look Like Idiots!"

Oil's Well That Ends Well

Oil consumption per capita is down about 10% in the US.  Oil prices, meanwhile, have steadily risen.  Who's behind it?  Our old friends on Wall Street, of course.
Experts attribute much of the recent rise in prices to flows of speculative money into oil markets. These bets are fueled by investor expectations that the U.S. and global economies are poised to return to growth and thus spark increased use of oil. Strong growth in China supports the narrative of rising oil consumption and tightening supplies.

"The thinking goes that rising stock (market) prices implies expanding business activity, implies growing energy demand, implies rising oil prices. I think you can make that case, but it's awfully weak," said Michael Fitzpatrick, vice president-energy for MF Global, a financial firm that brokers the sale of contracts for future delivery of oil.

While there are signs of U.S. economic recovery, such as a slight uptick in consumption and strong manufacturing data, there are plenty of ho-hum signs too, including dismal construction spending and continued high unemployment.

"I just don't think if you look across the entire spectrum of the macro-economy that it creates a picture of a growing body of incontrovertible evidence that there is a strong, sustainable recovery. I just don't see it," Fitzpatrick said. "I think it should be closer to the range we were seeing in late summer and early fall, $67 to $72" a barrel.

On the last day of July, oil traded at $67.50 a barrel and gasoline sold at a nationwide average of $2.52 a gallon for regular unleaded. On Thursday, oil prices settled at $84.87 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.80 a gallon and more than $3 on the West Coast, according to the AAA.

"It's the story we've been talking about . . . . It's really about oil being an attractive investment for investors right now," said Troy Green, a AAA spokesman. "You've seen quite a bit of money flooding into the oil markets because of that."

What's different about today's price run-up from two or three years ago is that oil is now in ample supply.
After oil crashed in 2008, it sure didn't take long for the speculators to get right back into the game again, didn't it?   You think Obama will do anything about high gas prices?  Can he?  The GOP certainly won't let him.  After all, anything that might benefit Obama politically will be blocked.  Republicans have made that clear.

If banks have all this money to invest in driving oil up, why are they still pretending to be poor?


+162,000 new jobs in March, but the unemployment rate remained at 9.7%.
About 48,000 temporary workers for the decennial census were hired last month, while private payrolls jumped 123,000, the highest since May 2007.

Employment last month was also lifted by a snap back from February's weather-related losses.

Since December 2007, payrolls had contracted every month except last November, January, and now March.
The bounce back in employment could take some pressure off Obama, who has made putting back Americans to work a top priority.
So that's good, it means that outside the Census hiring, there were still 100,000+ new jobs added by companies. That's the good news.  The bad news is we're going to need numbers three times that size for years to make a dent in the sheer number of jobs lost compared to the expansion of America's job market.  We've lost 8 million jobs.  To get those back we're going to need to create that many jobs, plus the 150k a month we need to cover the growth in America's population.  Today, we got maybe 10,000 of those 8.2 million jobs back.  Temporarily.

Nothing short of a new Public Works Administration national infrastructure project will fix this.

When Statisticians Attack!

Nate Silver investigates the claim that stimulus money was doled out based on partisan politics, and finds out the real method used to disperse the funds.
The district that received the largest amount of stimulus funding in the 4th Quarter of 2009, according to de Rugy's tally, is California's 5th Congressional District. Is there anything notable about the 5th Congressional? Well, it is home to the state capital, Sacramento. Let's keep that in mind.

Next on the list is New York's 21st Congressional District. The largest city in the 21st is the state capital of New York, Albany.

Third is the 21st Congressional District of Texas. It contains parts of Texas' state capital, the wonderful city of Austin. (Another district that contains parts of Austin -- the 25th -- ranks 14th on de Rugy's list.)

At this point, it ought to be pretty obvious what is going on. The three districts receiving the largest amount of stimulus funds are home to the capitals of the three largest states -- New York, California, and Texas. Let's pause for a moment and make a bold prediction. I'll bet you that the district that ranks 4th on the list will contain the capital of the 4th largest state, Florida.

Bingo. Up 4th on the list is Florida's 2nd Congressional, home to Tallahassee.

Fifth is Pennsylvania's 17th, which hosts the state capital, Harrisburg.

The sixth through tenth districts contain the capital cities of other large states: Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey, respectively. They are followed by districts that include the state capitals of Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia -- then another part of Austin, Texas -- then Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Finally, in 19th place is South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, which does not host a state capital. (Ironically, it has elected a Republican -- J. Gresham Barrett -- to the Congress).
There's also one more thing the state capital-containing congressional districts of the largest states in the country have in common: they're mostly heavily concentrated urban centers with lots of minorities who vote for the Democratic party.

Giving most of the money to the state capitals and the state agencies around them makes sense, doesn't it? This of course was used to give rise to the claim that "73% of stimulus funds went to Democratic districts".

Correlation does not equal causation, people. But it sure didn't stop the Wingers from grabbing this one this week and running with it as yet another reason to attack Obama.

Of course, when did facts ever slow Wingers down?

Veronique de Rugy, author of the study, at least comes clean and apologizes to Nate for missing the obvious. But I wonder how far this lie will travel while Nate's much more coherent explanation is still getting its boots on?

Instant Absolution

I read Lew Rockwell for his economic viewpoints, but on the social stuff the guy is bugnuts crazy.
[R]ecent Tea Party people who allegedly denounced a Parkinson’s patient or spat at gay and black congressmen might well have been agents. Offensive signs might be Made in DC too. Next might come calls for violence by alleged Tea Party types, and perhaps acts, which can be used to suppress dissent. Peaceful resistance is not only right, it is all that works, unless you are with the state. If anyone urges the use of violence, the state’s characteristic action, he is probably an agent.
The problem with this ultra-paranoid viewpoint is that it also conveniently absolves any and all bad behavior from the Teabaggers.  Anyone who does misbehave is not a violent racist nutjob, but a liberal Obama FBI agent provocateur out to discredit the principled opposition to, you know, the entire US government.

Occam's razor, anyone?  Seriously, every single one of the racist, violent, or generally awful signs or speeches or comments made on TV is done by an Gubmint Agent?  Maybe Lew's talking about the GOP members of Congress saying these things.  We do have proof after all they are working for the US government...

Or maybe Lew just thinks you're stupid enough to believe that.


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