Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last Call

I'm hard on some of Obama's choices and his programs, especially on economics, our wars, and terrorism policy carried over from the Bush administration.  I do not believe for a second however that the alternative would have been a better choice.  We would be getting much the same policies from a Republican in the White House on those matter, but the difference is on the other policies, like civil rights.
President Obama on Thursday signed a memorandum requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney.

The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision. 
This is not something any Republican president would have done.
The memorandum from Obama to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, made public late Thursday night, orders new rules that would ensure hospitals "respect the rights of patients to designate visitors."
Obama says the new rules should require that hospitals not deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay," Obama says in the memo.

Affected, he said, are "gay and lesbian American who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated."

Obama's actions are the latest attempt by his administration to slowly advance the agenda of a constituency that strongly supported his presidential campaign. 
Slowly is correct.  But then again, the history of equality is nothing in not a long, sweeping arc of slow changes that add up to a policy, that then becomes a precedent, that then becomes a new social more.

It is however a long overdue change.  Odds are very good that like myself, you know someone this order will affect personally.   Good for Obama.  This one he gets full marks for.

Senate Republicans Make Their Choice

And they're siding with the banks.
Democrats have promised to put the legislation--authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd--to a key test vote, whether or not Republicans are happy with the proposal itself, or feel they've had enough input in its construction. That puts Republicans in a tricky position: either they take a politically risky vote and block debate on a Wall Street reform bill, or they cede the upper hand to Democrats. But political risk or no, the GOP is gearing up for full bore opposition--and that would leave Democrats shy of the votes they need to put the bill on the floor.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has rounded up 40 signatures on a letter, to be delivered to Democratic leadership, pushing for a compromise package that has pre-cooked bipartisan support, according to a GOP aide. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is the sole Republican who has not signed on yet--but though she's been long viewed as a potential crossover vote, she's decided to oppose the Dodd bill in its current form.
"I oppose Senator Dodd's bill," Collins said today, adding:
If the letter says I don't support the bill, I am happily going to sign it. I am still talking with my colleagues about whether a letter is the most effective way to send the message, or whether there are better ways, and those discussions are still ongoing. I agree with my colleagues that the Dodd bill is deeply flawed. But, as a former financial regulator, I also feel strongly that the current system is very flawed. We need a financial regulatory bill, just not this one.
McConnell's office isn't releasing the letter, and it's unclear whether it contains an explicit threat to vote against a motion to begin debating the legislation--in fact one source says the letter draws no bright lines. But some key signatories suggested tonight that they would indeed block it from coming to the floor.
I really don't understand this one.  When Republicans oppose something the Democrats want to do that's a rough stretch in the polls like health care reform, Republicans go on TV and say "Democrats are not listening to the people" and hold it up that the Donks are out of touch with the American mainstream, and even go so far as to question the legitimacy of the Democrats in government.  They then lead a brigade of red state AGs to sue to block the implementation of the law, and decry it as unconstitutional.

When Republicans oppose something that has a clear popular mandate, like reining in Wall Street banks and preventing another multi-trillion dollar collapse, something that has an easy majority among voters, Republicans suddenly don't give a damn anymore about the polls.

Suddenly, what the American people want no longer matters to the GOP anymore.  Of course, it never really did, but it's a nice way to be self-serving hypocrites.

The real problem is that you're not going to see anyone in the Village call out the GOP on "going against the will of the American people" either.

George Of The Jungle

Except this George (Soros that is) is king of this particular jungle.  If he says we're heading for another financial crackup bubble down the road that will be even worse than 2008, I'd pay attention.  Tyler Durden:
George Soros, speaking at a meeting organized by The Economist, warns all those who are throwing their money into the equity pit, that "the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis." Advice from Soros or from CNBC. You decide. Reuters reports that Soros said "the same strategy of borrowing and spending that had got us out of the Asian crisis could shunt us towards another crisis unless tough lessons are learned." We hope all those who are buying stocks have very tight stop loss triggers.
That should scare the crap out of all of us, no matter what your political persuasion is.  But the evidence is mountain that the next bubble will come fast and hard like a Randy Johnson strike:
The one thing allowing those invested to sleep at night is the observation that it took 10 years between the 1998 Asian crisis and the 2008 credit crisis. "If the pattern is repeated, it should at least mean we have another 8 years to go before the next crash."

We would take the under on that. In 1998 and all the way through 2008, developed countries as a percentage of their GDPs were at most half of where they are now. At this point the entire credit house of cards continues to exist only so long as credit conditions for US sovereign debt can be massaged by the Fed enough that the world forgets there are is $10 trillion in debt issuance on deck over the next decade (a conservative estimate). It is a virtual impossibility that the money printer of even what may still be considered the reserve currency (although that distinction is rapidly shifting back to gold once again) can withhold a multi-trillion issuance onslaught and a multi-trillion corporate/CRE refi wave with 10 Years at under 4%. The next crisis will, as Soros points out, begin in the sovereign debt arena. In fact, it has already begun. Here is Reuters with an extended report on Greece's formal request for IMF aid. Net result - add another $560 billion in public leverage to the system.
Greece is not the end of the last crisis, it's the beginning of the next one.  And there's going to be a lot more where that mess came from...

A Poll Arising Debate, Part 2

More on the reaction to that CBS News/NY Times profile poll on the Tea Party movement.  The pundit reaction at the Times is illuminating.  Alan Brinkley:
The most important clue to the views of the Tea Partiers is who they are: mostly white males, over 45, more wealthy and more conservative than the norm. This is a profile that matches other highly motivated protests over many decades — the supporters of Joseph McCarthy, for example, in the 1950s. Today, the target is not communism, which is no longer a major issue for the right (although “socialism” appears to have taken its place). But what seems to motivate them the most is a fear of a reduction in their own status — economically and socially.

Economically, they fear that government spending and high deficits will lead to higher taxes and to inflation, both of which would threaten their own livelihoods. It is telling that the Tea Partiers display a very high level of concern about deficit spending, but a significantly lower concern when they are asked if they would prefer higher taxes and lower deficits, or lower taxes and higher deficits. Most Tea Partiers choose the latter, which suggests that their concern is not the state of the economy as a whole, but their own economic conditions.
The Tea Party motto:  I got mine, screw the rest of you.  They're looking out for themselves, basically.  Mostly, they really, really don't want to see taxpayer dollars spent on the poor or minorities.  You can count on Amity Shlaes to whitewash the questions of race:
Generally the media these days depict Tea Partiers as bigots who look down on minorities as inferior. Yet 11 percent of Tea Party supporters said that what they liked best about the president was that he was intelligent, while only 6 percent of the general population said that intelligence was their favorite attribute of Mr. Obama. Asked what they liked least about Mr. Obama, and offered the option of answering “He’s Muslim,” only a tiny share of both groups, 1 percent, chose that description for their dislike. These responses undercut the argument that Tea Partyism is racism.  
And the response that "25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public" does not undercut that argument.  Also, when "[t]hey are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people" then that whole "Tea Partyism is racism" argument seems to have merit.   Lorenzo Morris addresses that:
If there’s a bias, they would surely say it is not racial because most think “too much has been made” of black problems. It is rather American values which 3 out of 4 say President Obama does not share. In fact, for 9 of 10 Tea Party respondents disapprove of President Obama overall job performance.

Still, individual competence can’t be what angers them because two-thirds have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin and yet 47 percent think she lacks “the ability to an effective president.” Spending is objectionable because they think it is misdirected on domestic programs — except when the spending is on programs they may need like Social Security and Medicare.

When asked what makes the largest percentage of them angry, however, it’s health care reform rather than taxes. It is not that the government cannot administer health care programs, it is just that they don’t want to pay the government to do it. Here, they seem to want to repeat the folly of those early Americans who thought there could be government with no taxes. A real source of anger may well be that reality imposes itself every April 15th.
Actually, I think the source of anger can be traced back to November 2008, when the horse these folks backed kind of lost.  Big time.  They're mad because they've been scammed by the Republicans, and they're projecting on Obama and the Dems.  Nobody likes to be made a fool of.  And a whole lot of the folks in the Tea Party simply aren't used to not being in charge of the country.  It's new, shocking, and downright scary to them.

Finding out America passed you by is not a fun time.  Probably explains why 24% of them believe violence against the government is justified (as opposed to 16% of the general public.)  Also, 94% of them think it's time for new people in Congress.  A plurality of them say the economy's fault belongs solely to Congress as a matter of fact, not Bush (5%), not Obama (10%), not Wall Street (15%)...but Congress (28%).  94% of them don't trust the government.

It gets worse.  Where the country favors creating jobs over reducing the deficit 50%-42%, three-quarters of these clowns say we should reduce the deficit (76%), while only 17% think creating jobs is more important.  I got mine, screw you, remember?

73% of them think government programs for the poor keep people poor.  The general public disagrees.  Two-thirds of them say global warming will never have an impact on humans, or doesn't exist.

And the best part:  63% say their primary news source is FOX.  The public?  Just 23%.

The Tea Party is an echo chamber with a short fuse and no sense of irony.

Ham And Cheese

Via the Rumpies:

I Like Ham

They did not like a Sign With Ham.
They do not like you, Sam I am.

You know who else doesn't like ham? Muslims. S'truth. And...the Tea Party people don't like ham...Hey wait a minute...

The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 14

With Marco Rubio up by 23 points in the latest Florida GOP Senate primary poll, Gov. Charlie Crist may be finally making his move towards running with an (I) next his name.  TPM's Eric Kleefield:
Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who has been trailing badly in his Republican primary for Senate, has just vetoed a signature Republican-backed education bill in Florida -- a sign that he could potentially break with his party and run for the Senate as an independent.

The legislation, which was passed through the Republican legislature in the face of massive protests from teachers, would have abolished tenure for new teachers and instituted strict merit pay guidelines. It was heavily supported by conservatives both inside and outside the legislature, notably former Gov. Jeb Bush.

There has been much speculation about whether Crist might abandon his GOP primary -- the TPM Poll Average gives Rubio a lead of 59.1%-27.9% -- and run as an independent. And many media reports have pointed to Crist's choice of signing or vetoing this bill as a key indicator. A Quinnipiac poll this morning suggested that Crist could potentially win a three-way race as an independent.
Crist has flatly denied running as an independent before, but that was before his 35 point lead turned to a 25 point deficit in the primary in a meteoric crash.  This race gets a whole hell of a lot more interesting if Crist decides to go on his own.  This veto may not have given him much of a choice...but then again, maybe that's the message Crist is trying to send.

But a 3-way race is also Democrat Kendrick Meek's best chance to pull off an upset, too. That Q poll is 32-30-24 for Crist, Rubio, and Meek respectively.  That leaves plenty of undecideds and Meek may be able to make up ground if Crist and Rubio keep drifting to the right.

I'll be keeping a close eye on this one.  It could be this year's Hoffman Effect showcase race.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

CNN's latest poll has the Dems at +4 on the generic ballot.  Gallup has the Republicans at +4.  Remember, according to Nate Silver, that's literally the difference between the Dems losing only a dozen seats in the House (if CNN is right) and losing about 50 seats and control of the House is Gallup is right.

The question becomes "who is right?"  (Hey if you're Rasmussen, the GOP already controls the House.  I'm sure Speaker John Boehner is thrilled.)

A Poll Arising Debate

Much has been made of this CBS News/NY Times poll that shows Tea Party supporters are older, white, conservative, and have more money and are more educated than your average American.  That's about right, as a matter of fact.  Most conservatives as a whole fit those categories and it's not suprising at all that Tea Party supporters are in fact conservative.

Here's what is surprising:
Their responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers. They actually are just as likely as Americans as a whole to have returned their census forms, though some conservative leaders have urged a boycott. 
They're not angry about paying too much in taxes, and they don't particularly like Sarah Palin, and they support Social Security and Medicare.  That kind of flies in the face with everything we're being told about the Tea Party by the right wing noise machine, that Tea Party supporters are there because they are overtaxed, want to cut federal spending including SS and Medicare, and that Sarah Palin represents them.

On the other hand, when it comes to their views on social class and race, they are exactly what you expect.
Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington. 
But remember, racial animosity has nothing to do with the Tea Party movement.  All the racists are liberal plants who have infiltrated the ranks.  And what's actually even more hysterical:  white conservative educated and wealthy Baby Boomers in 2010 are complaining they don't feel their opinions are represented in Washington!

Have you guys taken a look at the demographic make-up of the United States Senate, maybe?  Oh wait, they're looking at the Oval Office.  My bad.  We just haven't had enough older white guys in the position, I guess.

The reality behind the Tea Party movement is simple.  "I got mine, and I'm sure as hell not letting a black President give it away to poor black people.  Screw you."

Digby has more.
Here's the corker:

Regardless of your overall opinion, do you think the views of the people in the tea party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans?
84% of the self-identified teabaggers said yes. Only 25% of the general public agreed.
Of course the people with the money, getting the SS checks and the Medicare represent the entire country.  They say they do, and so does the Village and the Republican party.

Billmon over at Big Orange has even more.
Considering the administration spent the better part of its first year in power shoveling money into the Aid for Dependent Wall Street Banks program it inherited from the Bush Administration, or rebuilding public infrastructure that primarily benefits suburban commuters and long-distance truckers, or promoting middle-class tax cuts, or pushing Congress to enact an elaborate and very generous system of subsidies for working-class and middle-class people who can't afford (or like to pretend they can't afford) health insurance, you'd think Obama would get a small break here. God only knows what the teabaggers would be saying about him if he really did try to do something big and expensive specifically to help those people.

Whatever it is, I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that it would include some fairly generous helpings of the "N" word.
Post-racial era my black ass.  These guys don't hate the GOP.  They are the GOP.  What they hate are Democrats, minorities, Barack Obama, and any Republican who "enables" them by not shutting down the government with those hated enemies in charge.

If It's Thursday...

484k new jobless claims for the week, up 24,000.  Not good news.

Contonuing claims up 70k to 4.64 million, total benefit claims just under 6 million.  We've lost over 8 million jobs, so...that means there's at least an extra 2 million folks out there unemployed and off benefits.

That's not exactly good news either.

Jumping The State Budget Grand Canyon

Even with the stimulus, states still face an $89 billion budget gap for FY 2011.
California faces the largest budget gap at $13.8 billion, the report said, with Illinois at $12.5 billion and New Jersey at $11.0 billion following close behind. The remaining states have balanced budgets for the year, and Alaska reported a $355 million surplus.

States are especially agonizing the wind down of federal stimulus funds, which will disappear by fiscal year 2012. State officials from 31 states and Puerto Rico forecast a $73.5 billion budget gap for that year, and 21 states project a $64.7 billion deficit for fiscal year 2013.

By the end of fiscal year 2013, the conference estimates states will have closed a combined $531 billion budget hole since the start of the recession.
Half a trillion dollars taken out of state budgets over five years.  Yeah, that's going to affect state services, programs for the poor, education, state and local employees, infrastructure, public safety, you name it.  The easy cuts have been made, folks.  The rest of these budget cuts over the next 3 years?  They are going to be the hard ones that are going to greatly affect where you live.

Now, think how large this budget gap would be without the stimulus.  Yes, it should have been larger, but it has so far staved off the worst of the cuts.  That ends in July of next year when the stimulus money runs out.

Then the real pain begins.

Foreclosing On A Dream

The cold reality is that President Obama's foreclosure relief plan is not working in the least.
U.S. home foreclosures actions spiked in March and set a quarterly record despite federal programs to combat the unrelenting pace that homeowners are defaulting on mortgages, RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

The government aid, intensified in late March, has so far failed to overcome the staggering effects of nearly double-digit unemployment and wage cuts on borrowers.

Foreclosure activity jumped 19 percent to a monthly record in March, driving first-quarter actions up 7 percent from the prior quarter and 16 percent from a year ago to a record of more than 932,000 properties.

One in every 138 U.S. households got a foreclosure filing in the quarter such as a notice of default, auction or bank repossession.

Banks took back more than 257,000 properties in the quarter, a record high, putting repossessions on pace to shatter last year's record of more than 918,000 properties.

"If there's going to be a modification program that really has a material effect this year, it's not there yet," Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, told Reuters. 
Part of this is Congress's fault.  They defeated cramdown legislation twice, which would have made a difference in the foreclosure rate...a big difference.  Now we're seeing the results:  foreclosures continue to rise after setting a record in 2009, and are headed towards an even larger record based on Q1 2010 numbers.  But a big double-digit jump in foreclosure numbers from this time last year is, for once, economic bad news that I will lay at the feet of this President and the Democrats in Congress and not Bush.

At this point we're going to be dealing with foreclosures and the housing collapse well into 2013 and possibly longer unless Obama and the Dems get to work on serious foreclosure relief.  This is one area where Obama and the Democrats have dropped the ball, and the economy cannot recover until this is fixed.

What more impetus do you need, guys?

Not Buying What Mitch Is Selling

GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell continues to embarrass my state of Kentucky with his inexplicable opposition to financial reform.  His latest lame excuse?  He's worried about Kentucky's community banks...while taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the big banks in a private fundraiser with them earlier this week.  When asked, McConnell got testy:
QUESTION: How do you push back against this perception that you’re doing the bidding of the large banks? There was a report that you guys met with hedge fund managers in New York. A lot of people are viewing this particular line of argument, this bailout argument as spin –
MCCONNELL: You could talk to the community bankers in Kentucky.
BASH: I’m not asking you about the community bankers.
MCCONNELL: Well, I’m telling you about the community bankers in Kentucky.

QUESTION: Have you talked with other people other than community bankers?
MCCONNELL: Well, sure. We talk to people all the time. I’m not denying that. What’s wrong with that? That’s how we learn how people feel about legislation. But the community bankers in Kentucky, the little guys, the mainstreet guys, are overwhelmingly opposed to this bill.
QUESTION: What do you say to folks this is just meant to deflect attention from the fact your defending the large banks?
MCCONNELL: I’d say that’s innaccurate.

Not a real good excuse there Mitch.  Why were you at that big bank/hedge fund fundraiser with this legislation on the table that the banks don't like because it means they don't get free money anymore and they have to pay for their own bailouts?

Oh wait, I just answered my own question.  Probably explains why some GOP senators don't seem particularly concerned with what Mitch has to say...


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