Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Last Call

Hooray, it's our old friend Jim "anti-Felix Salmon" Pethokoukis again with his advice on fixing the economy.
Yet while a pro-business agenda may intersect at points with a pro-market one, they are not the same thing. Pro-market public policies make markets function fairer and more efficiently for everyone. They encourage competition and “creative destruction” and entrepreneurial capitalism. Pro-business policies often shift taxpayer money and other government goodies to favored companies, raise barriers to entry and otherwise defend the status quo.

For instance, the Chamber wants the government to cut spending by reforming the social insurance system. That sounds good — but how about also reducing the $90 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks that the Cato Institute reckons businesses get every year? The oil and gas industries alone benefit to the tune of $4 billion annually. It would be better to eliminate such distorting political blessings...
Holy crap, am I going to actually have to agree with Jim Pethokoukis?
...and then lower the corporate tax rate for everyone.
Oh whew, that was close.  Hey, so since Obama's doing it, it's bad, but when oil companies were getting billions in subsidies from Bush, it was...what, necessary?  Hey, let's just skip the subsidies and give them the same amount in tax cuts.  That's fiscal responsibility!

It’s clear the 11,000 registered lobbyists working in Washington aren’t all there to foster competition and boost market forces. Their job is to gain an edge for specific corporate paymasters. During the healthcare reform debate, for instance, Wal-Mart actually lobbied for employers to be forced to provide employees with insurance coverage. The company knew it could more easily afford it than many smaller retailers.

Or take financial reform. While big banks may complain about the tidal wave of new regulation, they also know they got off easy in some respects. They weren’t broken up, nor were size limits put in place. In fact, the biggest banks have gotten bigger since the financial crisis and have every incentive to keep doing so since the bigger they are, the more likely Uncle Sam will see them as too big to fail. And what sort of climate change policy has Big Business pushed? Cap-and-trade whose size and complexity make it the perfect target for lobbying and rent seeking.
Goddammit if you make me agree with you I am going to be really, really pissed off...
What’s good for business can also be what’s good for America. Tackling the budget deficit is one example.
Oh thank God.  So, Obama should cut corporate taxes, but tackle the deficit.  Well, since we're cutting subsidies too, that kinda cancels out the tax cutting part, do we tackle the deficit?

Oh right...umm...Jimmy here doesn't have an answer.  So, populist populist populist, cut corporate taxes, cut the deficit.  Right.  Fiscal responsibility 101.  Good ol' Jimmy, just as much a hack as ever.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Yggy on the whole Breitbart/JournoList stupidity:
Beyond the ethics of lying and smear one’s opponents, I would think conservatives would worry about the fact that a large portion of conservative media is dedicated to lying to conservatives. They regard their audience as marks to be misled and exploited, not as customers to be served with useful information.
Short response: horseshit.

Longer expositionary response:  No offense, Yggy, but we're talking about a hefty portion of the population in mass denial by choice here, man. On the contrary, they know exactly what they are getting, a reality better than the one they are in right now, where they are increasingly unemployed, increasingly being passed over, increasingly seeing more and more different cultures come into their neighborhood and increasingly terrified over a rapidly transforming America that's leaving them behind.

They are choosing to consume that reality, where the Tea Party is the most important political movement ever and they control the country for the foreseeable future.  They are willing, active participants in their own delusional cocoons where instead of trying to tackle the problems that are facing us (that reeks of effort) they just go for the path of least resistance and do what the nice people on the TV and the radio tell them to do.  The Republicans and their media enablers get permanent power, and the people get to play the universe's largest game of Better Than Life.

These people are dupes or marks.  They're junkies.  Let's not do them any favors and pretend like mean ol' Glenn Beck is take advantage of the poor Teabaggers.  They're paying him for the privilege of doing it.

You know what this whole "a large portion of conservative media is dedicated to lying to conservatives" thinking got us?  Two wars, and a wrecked economy. It was done on purpose and it's still being done.

Let's not be too naive here.

Nothin' Personal Dude, Just Business

City in extreme financial trouble, meet new revenue stream.
Oakland's City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that could make it the first city in the state to permit industrial marijuana production, a path-breaking decision that could spur the commercialization of a crop largely grown in hidden gardens.

The plan would authorize four potentially enormous pot factories, but makes no provision for the hundreds of growers who now supply Oakland's four dispensaries, which sold $28 million in marijuana last year. The council, however, promised it would develop a plan for these growers before permits are awarded next year for the four large-scale marijuana operations.

"This is a monumental step forward," said Dale Gieringer, an Oakland resident and the longtime head of California NORML, which backs the legalization of marijuana. "It really means moving into the era of industrial-scale operations and Oakland means to do it big."
Hey, cities have to raise funds somehow.  You won't let them raise taxes, so we're down to new and exciting fees on vice.
Bringing what has been a secretive and lucrative cash business into the open would also allow Oakland to tax it, potentially adding millions of dollars to its ailing budget. The city, which has led the state in its innovative approach to marijuana, was the first to adopt a pot tax, which is 1.8%, but is considering asking voters to approve a substantial increase.

Oakland keeps a list of people who have expressed interest in the permits. On Tuesday afternoon, Arturo Sanchez, who oversees the city's marijuana regulations, said it had 192 names.
Weed tax apparently is not fascist and undemocratic, unlike any other tax.  Who's going to openly complain about it?

A Little Story About Jack And Rand, Part 2

Rasmussen's latest numbers on the KY Senate race still has Rand Paul up 49% to Jack Conway's 41%. Here's the really interesting part of the survey:
By a 61% to 16% margin, Kentucky voters believe cutting taxes is a better way than increasing spending to create jobs. 
Right, because businesses will totally turn around and hire more people if demand for their products is still in the toilet.  Meanwhile, they'll completely give existing workers raises instead of pocketing the difference, right?  Yes, people here actually believe that the major problem is taxes, not demand from lack of spending because people are tightening their belts and getting laid off and are out of work for 99 weeks.

Voting against your self interest, the Kentucky way.  Of course, the whole tax cuts vs. stimulus thing is complete horseshit.


In other words, permanent tax cuts like the Republicans want are literally just about the least efficient stimulus option out there.  Extending unemployment is one of the best, as is increasing spending on state governments and infrastructure.

All that got cut out of the Jobs Bill by Republicans who said "we have to pay for it!" but think tax cuts are free.  Spending actually really does multiply itself in additional stimulus added to the economy.  That's why it's called stimulus.

Tax cuts are not stimulus.  But here in Kentucky, people think they'll magically create jobs instead of forcing states like Kentucky to cut social spending and take even more demand out of the economy.  Kentucky's one of the poorest states in the nation, and apparently people like it that way.

Steele This Book

That loud whistling sound you're hearing is the executioner's axe speeding towards Michael Steele's career, and it's being wielded by the wingnuts.
The Washington Times reports today, however, on a new matter that has nothing to do with Steele's notorious gaffes, and more to do with his notorious mismanagement.
The Republican National Committee failed to report more than $7 million in debt to the Federal Election Commission in recent months -- a move that made its bottom line appear healthier than it is heading into the midterm elections and that also raises the prospect of a hefty fine.
In a memo to RNC budget committee members, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen on Tuesday accused Chairman Michael S. Steele and his chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, of trying to conceal the information from him by ordering staff not to communicate with the treasurer -- a charge RNC officials deny.
Mr. Pullen told the members that he had discovered $3.3 million in debt from April and $3.8 million from May, which he said had led him to file erroneous reports with the FEC. He amended the FEC filings Tuesday.
When it comes to consequences, the financial problem could cause all kinds of trouble for Republicans. Deliberately filing deceptive FEC reports is criminal, and could lead to stiff penalties -- if not formal charges -- before the elections.
And while the Republican National Committee is already downplaying the significance of this, there's reason to believe the party is aware of the seriousness of the situation.
I know I've said this several times before and every time Michael Steele fails upward and gains even more power over at the RNC, but $7 million in campaign debt not being reported is one of those Things You Can Go To Prison For, and this time I think Steele has to be done.

Finally, this isn't the "Liberul Media" or the Democrats throwing these accusations around, but the Washington Times and the Wingers.  They're the ones calling for his resignation.

This may very well be it for him.

Alan Grayson's Punch-Out!!

The Republicans seem to have a bit of a problem getting Florida Dem Rep. Alan Grayson to pull a Vilsack and fold like a lawn chair.

They may not have a health plan. Or a jobs plan. Or a peace plan. But they do have a plan.

Here is the Republican plan:

"I'll give $100 to first Rep. who punches smary [sic] idiot Alan Grayson in nose."

That incitement to violence was tweeted by Dan Gainor. Who is Dan Gainor? The Vice President of the Media Research Center (MRC). MRC is a right-wing Washington slur tank that glorifies Big Business in its "Business and Media Institute." It is a $6 million lie factory, blessed by Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

And in case you missed the point, Gainor later tweeted, "I'd love to see the video."

Why is the D.C. Republican Establishment so angry at me? Because I stood up on the Floor of the House, and demanded that the Republicans release unemployment insurance. I demanded that the Republicans stop pushing people out of their homes to live in their cars, and that they stop taking food out of the mouths of children.
So...we're going to pay people to punch Alan Grayson and get a video of it.  That's how Republican Beltway types deal with Democrats with actual spines.  Grayson's response is not to apologize but to call this asshole out because...he has an actual spine.  Dems, please pay attention to Alan Grayson's spine.  He has one.  Please locate yours.

I like Alan Grayson.  I like Alan Grayson so much he's earned his own tag.  Alan Grayson Has An Actual Spine.

Committing A Capito Offense

The saga over just which West Virginia Republican will go up against Gov. Joe Manchin for Robert Byrd's seat this November just got a whole lot more interesting.  Shelly Moore Capito is out.  Jimm Phillips reports:
State GOP lawmakers had managed to wrangle an amendment into the final bill that designated the Senate election as completely separate from the general election, though both occur Nov. 2. The amendment basically allowed any candidate who was running for another office to also run in the Senate election — more pointedly, it allowed Capito to run for the Senate while also allowing her to run for re-election to her House seat. Previous reports indicated that Capito was reluctant to make the jump to a Senate run if it meant giving up her House seat and risking her status as the state’s top elected Republican.

So why would Capito still decide to bow out, even after her party went to a great deal of trouble to perfectly align the stars for her? A source gave Politico some indication of what Capito’s problem is now.
Even though a newly-passed special election law specifically allows for Moore Capito to run for re-election to her House seat and in the special election, there is still much concern about a possible legal challenge if she tries – or worse, the prospect that she might get kicked off the ballot for both offices – if she tries to file for the Senate race. The source added that the congresswoman is concerned the logistics of running and fundraising for two simultaneous races on Nov. 2, and is also mulling several personal considerations.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the only poll so far of this race, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, showed Manchin leading Capito 53-39 percent. Manchin is very popular in West Virginia — Rasmussen found 77 percent of voters approved of him — and Capito may be concerned that a failed Senate bid would tarnish her political prospects. Of course, turning down a run at what may be the Republicans’ best opportunity to pick up one of the state’s Senate seats won’t exactly help her reputation with the national party. State GOP bigwigs likely won’t be pleased with her either, especially since they risked making the special election fix — already a prime example of political kabuki — into even more of a spectacle by insisting on the Capito Amendment.
And Capito is running for the WV hills rather than face Manchin and risk losing both races.  Smart of her, because Manchin's going to win easily.

Just To Be Bastards About It

Republicans want to hurt as many Americans as possible out of spite in order to win.
There was quite a bit of attention yesterday afternoon when the Senate, after multiple tries, finally overcame a Republican filibuster on extended unemployment benefits. It was welcome, overdue news.

What got far less attention was what happened next.

Under inexplicable Senate rules, after a filibuster is broken, the minority trying to block passage can delay a final, up-or-down vote for 30 hours. Democrats hoped Republicans would agree to waive this pointless delay, and allow the Senate to vote on jobless aid. Republicans, who know the bill is going to pass anyway, refused without explanation.

Why would they bother? It's not just about Republicans being callous misanthropes -- though that's likely part of it -- it's also a matter of running out the clock. There's just not much time left on the Senate schedule, and the GOP wants to use up as much of the calendar as possible to prevent others bills and nominations from coming to the floor.
Yep, that's right.  They delayed the final vote until late tonight just to be a bunch of assholes and to waste a day of Senate time.   That's what the Republican people really think of the unemployed and the American people.  They think you don't matter as much as it does them winning.

Kick Americans while they're down on top of everything else.  They are nihilist bastards, period.

Vil-Sack Up, People

I've held my tongue on the whole Shirley Sherrod story because I knew better than to believe anything Andrew Breitbart put out.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration hasn't figured that out yet.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday he will reconsider the department's decision to oust a black employee over racially tinged remarks after learning more about what she said.

Vilsack issued a short statement early Wednesday morning after Shirley Sherrod, who until Tuesday was the Agriculture Department's director of rural development in Georgia, said she was pressured to resign because of her comments that she didn't give a white farmer as much help as she could have 24 years ago.

Sherrod said her remarks, delivered in March at a local NAACP banquet in Georgia, were part of a larger story about learning from her mistakes and racial reconciliation, not racism, and they were taken out of context by a blogger who posted only part of her speech.

Vilsack's statement came after the NAACP posted the full video of Sherrod's comments Tuesday night.
"I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner," Vilsack said.

The Obama administration's move to reconsider her employment was an absolute reversal from hours earlier, when a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Barack Obama had been briefed on Sherrod's resignation after the fact and stood by the Agriculture Department's handling of it.

But growing calls for the administration to reconsider the decision put pressure on Vilsack, who stressed that the decision to ask for her resignation was his alone.

The NAACP, which initially condemned Sherrod's remarks and supported her ouster, later said she should keep her job. The civil rights group said it and millions of others were duped by the conservative website that posted partial video of her speech on Monday.
The white farmer in question went on CNN yesterday to say that Sherrod basically saved his farm.  Sherrod told that story because, if Breitbart had bothered to post the entire speech, she was relating how in 1986 she was wrong, that her views in 1986 were racist, and that she had to turn the other cheek.  She did, and saved the farm of Mr. Spooner while she was working for a non-profit in Georgia.  It was a story of redemption.

But that didn't stop FOX from ripping into her and completely misrepresenting the story either.  It also didn't stop the Obama administration from summarily firing her as Tom Vilsack demanded her head...and that decision came down from on high.

It's one thing for Andrew Breitbart and FOX to paint the Obama administration in the worst possible light with an obvious smear job.  What makes it unacceptable is when the Obama administration is stupid enough to fall for it. And hey, the NAACP fell for it too, as did a number of other news organizations.

Greg Sargent has excellent advice on how to proceed.
This is an opportunity for the White House to drive home the point that the Breitbart-Fox-Glenn Beck axis -- which is out to destroy this presidency -- should be accorded no credibility whatsoever by news organizations. People should demand that the White House issue clear, unequivocal condemnation of what happened here.  
I doubt they will take it, nor will they bother to explain why Vilsack fired Sherrod.

And that's the real crime here.  Breitbart does what he does on purpose.  The White House should know better.  Mistermix at Balloon Juice sums it up:
For those of us who hoped that the Obama Administration would usher in a more thoughtful, nuanced and healthy attitude about racial friction, it’s pretty clear from this case that the attitude about race internalized by Obama’s appointees is anything but subtle. We can speculate about whether the White House intervened directly in the Sherrod firing, but it’s pretty obvious from the actions of Cook and Vilsack that Obama appointees believe that the way to please the boss is to jettison anyone who makes a racial gaffe, and to do it during the current news cycle. The Sherrod firing takes us in the opposite direction from the tolerance a lot of use hoped to see.
Just because Obama isn't Bush doesn't mean the problem of career politicians and hacks in Washington has been magically solved.

Damage Control Parties To The Bridge

Meanwhile, the President continues to take political damage from the GOP Plan to scuttle the economy as the Republicans have successfully cut off any more stimulus spending outside the heavily watered down jobs bill, and Obama is paying the price in the polls.
A year after President Barack Obama's political honeymoon ended, his job approval rating has dropped to a negative 44 - 48 percent, his worst net score ever, and American voters say by a narrow 39 - 36 percent margin that they would vote for an unnamed Republican rather than President Obama in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 48 - 43 percent approval for Obama in a May 26 national poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University and a 57 - 33 percent approval last July, just before the political firestorm created by opposition to his health care plan galvanized political opponents and turned independent voters against him.

In this latest survey of more than 2,000 voters, independent voters disapprove of Obama 52 - 38 percent and say 37 - 27 percent they would vote for a Republican contender in 2012.

American voters also say 48 - 40 percent Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012.
As the economy goes, so goes this presidency, and Obama knows it.  He also knows the Republicans will not lift a finger to help anyone but the least, I think he does.  I'm increasingly unsure of that.  Obama's fiscal commission seems poised towards making even more cuts at a time where we're facing deflation, and the economy is at most six months away from another downward plunge.

Obama needs to get it together and fast.

Win Ben Stein's Wingnut Disdain

Ben Stein on the unemployed:
The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along — not always easy. 
Yeah, the 15 million unemployed and the only 3 million jobs for them?  That's all because the unemployed are lazy.  All the Laffer Curve idiocy in the world doesn't change the fact there's 12 million more unemployed than there are jobs right now and that Republicans think the deficit is more important than putting people to work.  Those are facts, period.

Of course, Wingnuts don't deal in facts.  They deal in turning Americans against one another.


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