Friday, September 3, 2010

Last Call

In light of this news...
Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has put the kibosh on all future debates with her Arizona gubernatorial opponent Terry Goddard (D), after her rather embarrassing display at Wednesday's debate. "I don't believe that things come out in proper context in an adversarial atmosphere," she defended herself.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Brewer says she only partook in the debate to try qualify for the $1.7 million-plus public funds for her campaign.
So after her poor showing, which involved a flubbed opening statement that made the internet rounds yesterday, Brewer has had enough: "I think it's pretty defined what [Goddard] stands for and what I stand for."
I'm now absolutely sure that Steve M.'s theory on Brewer's debate flub is even more likely to become the new wingnut "truth".
All this will be woven into larger indictments of left-wing perfidy -- oh, how the liberals mock Sarah Palin when she looks at her hand! They don't like imperfection -- that's why they want Down syndrome babies aborted!

They're going to flood the zone. They're going to smother this. So don't get your hopes up that it will even put a small dent in Brewer's armor.
Given Brewer's petulant, child-like tantrum, this is the only possible response.  The right has too much invested in Jan Brewer to see her lose now.  Brewer is playing the victim card with Palinesque fervor and you will see Steve's scenario come to unfold:
Even as we speak, teams of video librarians, at Fox News and at wingnut-welfare outposts across America, are scouring every on-camera appearance by a Democratic politician since the invention of the cathode-ray tube, if not since the Lumiere brothers, in order to find pauses, stumbles, and verbal gaffes that will dwarf this one. They'll find some, and they'll show up all over the right-o-sphere in the next few days.

Simultaneously, right-wing pundits, bloggers, and pols will get to work memorizing and regurgitating their assigned talking points, which will probably be some variation on "Yeah, Barack Obama talks real slick, and look what a mess he's made. Jan Brewer isn't an East Coast Ivy League rootless cosmopolitan elitist -- she's a real person, and a real American, not like Slick Barry."

Or maybe just: "Well, but you have to remember one thing -- she wasn't allowed to use ... A TELEPROMPTER! HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!"
You can absolutely count on this.  Sarah Palin has a Facebook post defending Brewer from the evil liberal media before Labor Day is out.  And yet, in a real world, and if Jan Brewer were a Democrat, the same folks defending her would be piling on her like she had just committed the worst possible offense to God and America, in that order. 

Count on it.

Battlefield Earth

Newtie has the solution to stop Park51:  have the federal government take over the land from the private sector!

"I think the Congress has the ability to declare the area a national battlefield memorial because I think we should think of the World Trade Center as a battlefield site; this is a war," he said, apparently thinking that if Ground Zero was a national park, Park51 would be restricted from building near it.
And if that fails, he said, the state government should step in and use its considerable power to stymie the development.
"The Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, could intervene because frankly he has the ability to slow it down for decades if he wants to."
And, if the federal government doesn't intervene, and the state government declines to use its regulatory and enforcement powers to delay a private development project, Gringrich says the mayor should step in.
"I am surprised that Mayor Bloomberg said it was okay and I think that if he reconsiders it, he'll decide its not."
In fact, on whatever level, Gingrich thinks government intervention is the answer.
"There are a number of different steps that could be taken. There's no reason this has to occur and whether it's city, state, or federal there are plenty of ways for America to stop it," Gingrich said. 
So, to recap the Newt Gingrich/Republican stance on federal government, eminent domain and seizing land arbitrarily, Newt Gingrich as President of the United States would be all for government abusing its power on a federal, state, and local level to deny certain private citizens from using the land lawfully just because he doesn't agree with their views.

However, Obama is a fascist.

Glad we could clear this up.

Meow, Boing

Quite a Dead Cat Bounce we've had over the last three days.  You'd almost think we were out of that whole double dip danger zone.  S&P 500 up 65 points since Tuesday's close.

You'd be wrong, but you'd almost think that.  Remember, the markets were all over the place just before the crash in '08 too.

If Only Obama Had Turned Over The Economy To President McCain

And when David Brooks says "Obama should have listened to voters in 2008" he means "David Brooks" as he soft-pedals his idiotic what-if under President Obama McCain.
Many of the president-elect’s advisers had been reading histories of the New Deal. They had ambitious plans to address the crisis: federal jobs programs, new building projects, new spending initiatives. This was no time to worry about deficits, they said. This was an opportunity to address needs that had been neglected for decades.

Obama, in this fanciful version, held up his hand. He told his aides to put away the history books and reject the New Deal comparisons. Unlike in 1932, Americans today have a raging distrust of Washington, he observed. Living through a crisis caused by excessive debt, they will viscerally recoil at the prospect of federal debt without end. “Somehow,” Obama concluded, “we have to address the crisis without further terrifying the American people.”

The stimulus package, he continued, should rely heavily on cutting payroll taxes. This, he argued, will send a quick jolt to the economy without concentrating power in Washington. It will deliver a sharp psychological boost to the middle class. It might even be bipartisan. Obama noted that John McCain had a $445 billion stimulus plan along these lines and his fellow Republican senator, Mel Martinez, a $713 billion plan
See, tax cuts don't create debt, brooks continues, so Americans would have been able to clap their way to victory with an even smaller stimulus plan than what we had, which Republicans wouldn't have tried to stop, and they would have been so grateful to the President for abandoning Nancy Pelosi and health care reform completely that they totally would have signed off on the Energy bill too.

No really, that's his plan.  If only Obama had listened to voters in 2008 and let the Republicans run the country (as they clearly meant to do by electing Democrats) the Democrats would be even more popular now than they were two years ago!

And people wonder why I think David Brooks is an idiot.

Look, the real problem is Obama half-assed the stimulus from the beginning so it only halfway worked,  He half-assed health care reform and scrapped the public option, he half-assed Wall Street reform so that's not going to work when the next bank crash comes and he didn't bother with energy, climate, or immigration reform (and now he won't get the chance to.)

And now, with his back against the wall, he's half-assing it again with these tax cuts.


Zandar's Thought Of The Day

People ask me "Hey Zandar, what's a 'lost decade' look like, anyway?"

And I go "You just went through one."

Keep in mind that another one of these is kind of a best case scenario, because the worst case scenario involves a prolonged contraction of the economy and continued 10% unemployment or worse for years.  What does that mean?  The lean years are here, especially for Gen X.
Americans "just have to go down in their living standards" after years in which their living standards soared in part based on foreign credit which is no longer there," said University of Munich economics professor Hans-Werner Sinn. Jacob Frenkel, Chairman of JP Morgan Chase International, urged the United States to rein in entitlements as part of a "political deal" that recognizes reality
Austerity is coming, folks.  Major cuts in social spending are all but assured, just at the point America will need that spending the most.  That means the coming liquidation of excess capacity to the "new normal" levels of production, growth, and labor:  double-digit unemployment, decreasing home ownership levels, increasing wealth imbalance, and a lot of Americans living on the edge getting pushed into the abyss.

A whole hell of a lot of us are going to suffer as a result, while the wealthiest among us will gain even more.  That's just as unsustainable as the debt loads that people rail against, and the result will not be pretty.

Playing The Paranoia Angle, Part 10

In a real world with actual voters voting on the issues, Sharron Angle's most recent statement this week on the economy should have finished her for good.
In an interview this Wednesday, Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle heightened her criticisms of unemployment insurance, insisting that the benefits program to help the jobless ended up benefiting nobody.

Sitting down with conservative radio talk show host Heidi Harris, Angle once again addressed a topic that brought her a bit of political heat -- including a hard-hitting ad from her opponent Harry Reid-- not too long ago.

"People don't want to be unemployed," she explained. "They want to have real, full-time, permanent jobs with a future. That's what they want, and we need to create that climate in Washington, D.C. that encourages businesses to create those full-time, permanent jobs with a future, and all [Rep.] Shelley Berkeley and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid want to do is put a band-aid on this by extending unemployment, which really doesn't benefit anyone. What happens is of course that your skills stagnate. You become demoralized yourself, you know, feeling that I can't ever get a job, and these are not the solutions to the problem. We have real solutions, but they won't look at the real solutions."
Nevada's unemployment is the worst in the nation, and Angle is basically saying that people would magically have jobs if unemployment insurance was cut off, and that employers would somehow have the increased demand to start hiring again because people would buy things with the money from their non-existent jobs.

Angle should be getting laughed off the stage.  Instead she has a three-point lead, last check.  Odds are getting better she'll be Nevada's next Senator, and yet Democrats are stuck wondering how many of those "Republican solutions" aka tax cuts they should try.

So What CAN Obama Do?

Actually, Obama and the Democrats have a number of options for stimulating economic growth.  The question is really what the fiscal and more importantly the political cost of it will be.  Tyler Durden brings us Goldman analyst Alec Phillip's take.

Among the options that seem most likely to be considered:

A hiring credit: Congress enacted a credit in March 2010 that exempts employers from the 6.2% paying Social Security payroll tax on newly hired employees through the end of the year, and provides an additional $1,000 for employees retained for 52 weeks or longer. The cost of this credit is reasonably modest (the Treasury expects hires thus far will reduce payroll taxes by about $6 billion) and it could be expanded. The most effective expansion would likely be to simply lengthen the period that payroll taxes are waived, so that employers have somewhat longer term certainty regarding their labor costs. Previous congressional proposals included an income tax credit (rather than a payroll tax exemption) of several thousand dollars for a new hire, which has the advantage of simplicity but would tend to focus the incentive effects mainly in the lowest-paying parts of the labor force.

Payroll tax cut: Like the hiring credit, a payroll tax credit already exists under current law. The 2009 Recovery Act lowered tax liabilities for individuals with incomes under $100,000 by roughly $400 per person, for a total of $60bn in annual tax savings. The administration proposed extending the Making Work Pay (MWP) credit, as it is known, it in its FY2011 budget, but there has been relatively little discussion of extending it, perhaps because many taxpayers never realized they received it in the first place. If the administration makes a proposal in this area, the most obvious would be to expand or modify the existing MWP credit, potentially by simply raising the threshold at which the Social Security payroll tax starts to be applied.

Small business tax cut: Policymakers continue to focus on the challenges facing small businesses, so efforts in this area seem likely. First, the small business bill that is currently pending on the Senate floor should pass by mid-September. As a reminder, this would provide modest tax relief for small firms (roughly $7 billion over ten years) and would provide up to $30 billion in capital to banks to backstop small business lending. The most obvious option would be to increase the threshold for small business expensing, from $250,000 currently to a much higher figure—potentially in the millions—and make firms with greater amounts of investment eligible (the incentive currently phases out for firms with investment greater than $800,000). A less likely option would be some type of broader tax relief for small business. This would neutralize any concern that the expiration of tax rates on higher incomes will hit small businesses, but would have a lower bang for the buck if it does not incentivize hiring or investment.

Bonus depreciation: The administration has already proposed 50% bonus depreciation for 2010, following its expiration at the end of 2009, and this may be enacted as part of the pending small business legislation. To the extent that the administration wants to do something new in this area, it is possible that they could simply raise the percentage that may be expensed in the first year.

Infrastructure: The president has clearly identified this as a priority in recent comments, and already has proposals on the table to address infrastructure investment: extension of the Build America Bond (BAB) program, but at a slightly reduced subsidy rate, and a national infrastructure bank that would subsidize private investment in large-scale infrastructure projects that meet certain criteria, including through issuance of government guaranteed debt. Renewable energy incentives may also appear on a potential list of policy options, though we aren’t aware of any specific proposals in this area beyond further expansion of tax incentives. 
That's the good news.  The bad news:  Republicans aren't going to allow any of this to pass the Senate without making the Bush tax cuts semi-permanent.  The only discussion in my mind is how long the upper-income cuts will be extended for.  The Republicans will insist the cuts be made permanent, the Dems will give them at least 3 years if not 5 or even 10, and of course the plan won't pass before the election, not without the Republicans getting the 5 or 10 year extension as a minimum. 

The GOP knows they can stall for time, watch the economy crumble and pick up dozens of seats in the House and even ten or so in the Senate, and then start in with the "No Lame Duck Session!" chant and make a huge stink about even being in Congress in November and December and just block everything in protest, forcing the Dems to "pass the largest tax hike in history" (as the tax cuts expire on January 1 unless something is done about them) to which then the GOP controlled Congress will want to pass a permanent tax cut bill as soon as Congress reconvenes and look like heroes as they force Obama to try to veto it.

And the Dems are going to walk right into this idiocy.



Not as bad as everyone thought it would be, apparently.
U.S. employment fell for a third straight month in August, but the decline was far less than expected and private payrolls growth surprised on the upside, easing pressure on the Federal Reserve to prop up growth.

Nonfarm payrolls fell 54,000, the Labor Department said on Friday as temporary jobs to conduct the decennial dropped by 114,000.

Private employment, considered a better gauge of labor market health, increased 67,000 after a revised 107,000 gain in July. In addition, the government revised payrolls for June and July to show 123,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.

The decline in payrolls was about half as large as expected. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast overall employment falling 100,000 and private-sector hiring increasing 41,000.

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.6 percent last month, in line with market expectations. The rise in the jobless rate reflected an increase in the labor force as some discouraged workers resumed the hunt for jobs.
We're only treading water because of the stimulus, but that's going to end soon.  After that, things will get really bad, really fast.  U-6 number up to 16.7%.  Just under 140 million Americans are employed with 14.7 million unemployed.  This time last year?  14.8 million unemployed.  Treading water.

And that treading water effect from the stimulus is just about up.

Mind The Gap, Lads

Double G explores the "mysterious enthusiasm gap" between Democratic voters and Republican ones and finds there's no mystery at all.
What's most amazing about this is that Democrats generally and the White House specifically seem completely uninterested in doing anything about this -- other than exacerbating it.  The need to do something is what leads me to believe (without knowing) that Obama will nominate (without necessarily causing to be confirmed) liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Protection Agency created by the Financial Regulation bill.  If they do that and are serious about it, that would definitely be a good thing, but at this point, Democratic malaise and apathy are so entrenched that it's hard to imagine a single nomination doing much to change it.
Digby too notes the perception that Democrats in Washington have capitulated to the GOP again and have just stopped caring.
This NY Times story says that the youth vote for Democrats is dwindling because of the economy. I think this quote is very telling:

“There’s a vibe,” he said on a recent afternoon, while pumping weights at the gym. “Right now it seems like Republicans just care a lot more than Democrats.”

I get that. They do seem like they care more.

Those who are paying close attention realize that they either care more about destroying the socialist/Muslim menace or they care more about taking back the power they so recently lost. But either way, they do appear to give a damn. The Democrats, on the other hand, rather than coming out with their guns blazing at those who have made it impossible for them to fix these problems seem content with trying to convince people that it isn't as bad as they think it is.

At this point the enthusiasm gap is threatening to become something of a force multiplier for Republican votes.  If only hard-core Republican partisans and angry Independents looking to send a message to the Dems in Washington are the ones voting and Democratic voters stay home out of "why should I give a damn", then the Democrats are going to get completely annihilated this fall, lose Congress, and the next two years are going to be complete hell.

And yet President Obama seems to be satisfied with just that, making move after move to completely discourage the base.

Maybe he's playing to lose.  The Republicans are going to pin everything on him anyway, but in the meanwhile the Republicans will make sure the average American continues to suffer massively in the next two years and will blame Obama for it.

I'm having trouble figuring out the plan here.

Finally Fighting Back

The notion that President Obama's bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Catfood Commission will make serious cuts to Social Security after the November election is the worst kept secret in Washington right now, and House Dems are trying to fight back early.
Democrats led by Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva are drawing a line in the sand before the White House's fiscal commission: If your report recommends cuts or other changes to Social Security, they will say, you'll lose our support.
In a letter to be sent to President Obama, obtained by TPM, House Democrats will pledge to vote against any legislation based on the commission's report unless Social Security is taken off the table.
"We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age," the letter reads. "We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.... If any of the Commission's recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them."
The effort is intended to tie the commission's hands, at least on this issue.
"It's up to members of Congress to pre-empt the commission," says Alex Lawson, communications director for the advocacy group Social Security Works.
After all, we have to pay for Social Security somehow.  One would think that by letting the Bush tax cuts expire we can then use that revenue to pay for it, but apparently enough Dems would rather give tax cuts to the rich and cut Social Security benefits instead.

This will go over well with Democratic voters, of course.  Hence the "after the election" part.


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