Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Call

Shorter Jeffrey Goldberg:

"If Washington DC's African-American residents would just stop voting for Democrats all the damn time, Republicans might actually let them count as Americans in Congress.  I mean honestly, why should the GOP give a damn about any of you people?"

Just A Bit Short

A new study says that Americans are now $6.6 trillion short of  what they need to retire.

The $6.6 trillion figure is based on projections of retirement and income for American workers ages 32-64. The study's authors say they arrived at the amount using conservative assumptions, including a 3 percent rate of return on assets and no further cuts in pension coverage or increases in the Social Security retirement age.

"Using other assumptions, it could be much higher," said Maria Freese, Director of Government Relations and Policy for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. For example, the study notes, if the rate of return matches the return on U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), currently 1.87 percent, the deficit balloons to $7.9 trillion. 

This announcement comes on the heels of other sobering news: Milliman Inc., a Seattle-based actuarial and consulting firm, reported this week that the funded status of the 100 largest corporate defined benefit pension plans dropped by $108 billion during August 2010. 

This comes amid recent reports indicating that a White House-created panel is considering proposals to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age.

So if the Catfood Commission cuts benefits or raises the retirement age, Americans will need trillions more in order to retire.  That $6.6 trillion is a minimum number, and there's every reason to believe Americans will need a staggering $10 trillion or more just to retire.  My generation?  Screwed.

If you're not able to afford to put away tens of thousands a year in retirement savings every year, then don't expect to be even able to retire.  The government isn't going to help you.  Your employer certainly isn't going to help you.  Nobody is.

You're on your own, folks.  And that's just how the Republicans -- and increasingly some Democrats -- want it.

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 10

The Housing Double Dip is upon us, and the rest of the economy will soon follow.

Two new reports out today prove the consequences of oversupply of organic inventory (12.5 months on existing homes in July according to the National Association of Realtors) and the shadow inventory of foreclosed properties (estimates vary widely and wildly). CoreLogic's Home Price Index shows home prices "flat" in July as transaction volume continues to decline. "This was the first time in five months that no year-over-year gains were reported," according to the release. In June, prices were up 2.4 percent year over year. In addition, "36 states experienced price declines in July, twice the number in May and the highest number since last November when prices nationally were still declining."

And there's the rub. 

Prices have been recovering since last Fall, largely thanks to the artificial stimulus of the $8000/$6500 home buyer tax credit. But prices were also benefiting from a slight bump in confidence in the housing market, fed by an apparent drop in the foreclosure numbers. In reality, the foreclosure numbers were dropping only because banks and states were delaying the process, as they tried to cram as many borrowers as possible into what we now know is a largely unsuccessful government-backed mortgage modification program. 

Now home buyer confidence is back in the dumps, which is clear from another report out today showing that for the 3rd straight month the percentage of home sellers on the market who have slashed their asking prices at least once has gone up. Twenty-six percent of sellers on the market in August, according to, had lowered their expectations, and hence their prices. Sellers on the market today have cut $29 billion off their collective home equity

Another $29 billion gone from the economy, and that's just this month.  It joins the trillions that have been vanishing from home values since 2007.  More will vanish as the months go on.  That's a guarantee.  things are always darkest right before things get pitch black.

A Real Kentucky Horse Race On Our Hands

Jack Conway is closer in the polls to Rand Paul than a lot of people think.  Greg Sargent:

Is the Kentucky Senate race much closer than everyone thinks?

An internal poll by respected pollster Benenson Strategy Group that was conducted for Dem Jack Conway's campaign and sent my way finds the race is a statistical tie, with Rand Paul leading 47-45, well within the margin of error.

Now, obviously you'll want to be cautious about internal polls. But this comes as the NRSC has gone up on the air in Kentucky with a new spot hammering Conway, perhaps a hint that the race is closer than we've been led to believe.

Rand Paul has done almost everything he can to blow this one.  Jack Conway is making this race very close and very winnable for the Democrats.

Several other public polls have shown Paul with a wide lead. But the Conway camp's internal polling memo by Benenson Strategy Group, or BSG, insists its own numbers are far more accurate:
The BSG poll was conducted using a sample of registered voters who were screened to ensure that they are likely to vote on Election Day.
Recently, a series of public polls have been released that either fail to interview registered voters (Rasmussen and SurveyUSA) or that interview registered voters but fail to screen to ensure that voters are likely to vote (CNN). Both approaches are flawed -- particularly this close to Election Day.
This race has shown polling all over the map. And as a colleague remarked to me just now, the battle between the party committees over what the polling actually says about this particular contest is among the most ferocious spin wars under way right now. The DSCC has reserved air time in October for this race, and obviously the real tell as to whether national Dems think this is winnable will come when we see how much cash they're willing to actually plunk down in the end.

It also depends very much on turnout for Conway.  I know a lot of folks around here are getting pretty nervous about the thought of Senator Rand Paul representing the state.  They don't trust him, and they don't like him.  Conway can win, but only if he can get people to the polls.

Rand Paul's folks certainly will here in November.

Eight Heads In A Tea Bag

As Dave Weigel reminds us, the Tea Party has collected no less than eight heads from John Cornyn and the NRSC.

So why didn't the NRSC just blow smoke last night and avoid cheesing off the base? Well, reporters would have laughed in their faces. That's how this works. The base is right -- its pose of total confidence at all times may not convince the hacks, but it's what you need before an election. Because the alternative is denying O'Donnell a honeymoon and launching her campaign with two days of inside baseball stories about infighting.

Make no mistake, the NRSC is effectively done.  "Follow the money" is no cliche here in a post Citizens United world.  The real power is now in the hands of Karl Rove and the Super PACs.

At least 25 “super PACS,” including one linked to Karl Rove, are fueling a surge in money for this year’s elections following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on corporate campaign spending.

These political action committees can take unlimited company, union and individual donations and explicitly urge voters to support or oppose candidates, unlike ordinary PACs and nonprofit groups. Like other PACs, they must register with the Federal Election Commission and disclose donors.
“They can say whatever they want politically in the advertising,” said Michael Toner, a former FEC chairman who’s among the lawyers dubbing them super PACs. “It’s very liberating.”
American Crossroads, a group advised by Rove, a top adviser to former President George W. Bush, said it has raised more than $17 million. That includes $1 million from Dixie Rice Agricultural Corp., a company led by Harold Simmons, also the chairman of Dallas-based Titanium Metals Corp. A trust controlled by Jerrold Perenchio, former chairman of New York- based Univision Communications Inc., also gave $1 million.
That may be just the beginning. American Crossroads also has an issue-advocacy group that doesn’t have to disclose donors, and it won’t say how much of the $52 million it plans to raise in this campaign will go toward that effort. Other groups aren’t even registering as PACs and will be able to spend millions on ads without disclosing their contributors as long as they steer clear of expressly advocating for or against a candidate. 

They're bypassing traditional fundraising groups and putting out their own ads directly for candidates and against Democrats.  These corporate-funded beasts are the real money behind the fundraisers.  They have tens of millions, and multiplied by dozens of Super PACs, that's hundreds of millions of campaign dollars being thrown at the election here in the last two months.  The NRSC's donations of a few hundred thousand here and there are literally meaningless now.

Don't be fooled by all the "Karl Rove versus Christine O'Donnell" crap you're hearing today.  It's a front.  Rove will donate as much as he can to get this seat in the GOP column.  Make no mistake:  massive corporate entities are now directly influencing our elections with unlimited donations to outfits like Karl Rove's American Crossroads.  And if Rove doesn't, another Super PAC will.

After all, GOP Senate incumbents Michael Bennett and Lisa Murkowski and now Mike Castle lost to their Tea Party challengers by a combined total of 6,100 votes.  It's all about turnout in 2010.  The more money thrown at the races, the more turnout to oust the incumbent Dems.

Count on it.  Karl Rove certainly is.

Big Dog Is Faking It

As politically brilliant as Bill Clinton is, he sure is acting like he doesn't understand the Tea Party threat at all. It's an act, of course.

Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that the Republican Party is embracing "ideology over evidence" and pushing out pragmatic voices that would make even his White House successor seem like a liberal.
Clinton, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, said there was no mistaking that Republicans have tacked hard right and questioned whether former President George W. Bush would fit in among the party's candidates this year.
"A lot of their candidates today, they make him look like a liberal," Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd at a downtown hotel as he campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

Well no foolin' Bill, that's exactly why the Tea Party is winning primaries, because they are getting votes from people who think Bush really was too liberal.  The GOP is happily running away from Bush's record and blaming it all on Obama.  Blaming Bush is working wonderfully...for the Republicans.

I know Bill Clinton isn't this stupid, so I can only assume he wants the Tea Party to post such shocking wins that the Democrats come crawling back to Hillary and Bill in 2012 and ask them to save the country.

Don't act all shocked, folks.  Neither Clinton is a fool.  They know they have a much better shot to convince Obama not to run if he loses both chambers of Congress to these nutbags.  Everyone has an agenda.

Including the Clintons.

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World

This is what Delaware could be about to elect to the Senate in seven weeks.

A person who thinks masturbation is evil and that you shouldn't be allowed to do it.

A person who thinks anyone to the left of her is a Socialist.

The United.  States.  Senate.  Folks.  Six-year term.  She thinks there's just as much evidence for creationism as evolution, if not more.

Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.

Scared yet of this woman crafting laws for all Americans?  You should be.  You should be goddamn terrified of this woman if you disagree with her in any way.  She will be making laws for all of America, for all of us.  And the best part?  There's a lot more where that came from.

Still think there's no reason to vote?  What about Carl Paladino as Governor of the second most populous state in the country?

Carl Paladino -- a millionaire developer who has acknowledged forwarding racist and sexist emails, who has proposed turning empty prisons into dormitory space for welfare recipients, and whose state party didn't even want him on the ballot -- has won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in New York.

Think he can't win?

In April, Paladino acknowledged forwarding emails including images of bestiality and derogatory characterizations of President Obama, including one offering a video clip of African tribesmen dancing that characterized the video as "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal."

The Tea-Party backed candidate reportedly sent an e-mail depicting a horse having sex with a woman and another that included a pornographic video and the headline "Miss France 2008 F[***]ing." He also reportedly sent out an e-mail depicting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute and one showing an airplane landing near black men with the caption "Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!"

He did this and still beat Rick Lazio by over twenty points. What makes you think he didn't win specifically because he did this?  What makes you think Americans don't agree with him on that?

In Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, Darryl Radt, who described himself as a regular primary voter, said he had come to the American Legion post to vote for Mr. Paladino “because he’s mad as hell and so am I.”

Ron Wojcik, 67, a retiree, said he was frustrated with Albany and Washington and wanted someone different. “I want somebody who’s honest and hasn’t been sucked into the system already,” Mr. Wojcik said. “The system always seems to change people.”

"Hey honey, you see this Paladino guy?  Hell Martha, one of THEM'S in the White House!  I like this guy, he ain't afraid to say what everyone's thinkin'!"

And so a multi-millionaire real estate tycoon bought his way onto the ticket and won votes for being a racist jagoff.  Don't think he can win the general?  Keep telling yourself that.  Millions of pissed off Tea Party folks are going to make their votes count in November.  For those of you who think the Tea Party is harmless or as one friend told me last night "It's just the pendulum swinging back the other way" then you're badly underestimating what's going on here.

The turnout models mean nothing.  They are all badly underestimating the number of people now willing to vote, and vote for hard-core nutjobs just to flush out the two-party system.  They're literally drinking the drain cleaner.  They're blaming the Democrats and the Republicans and they want a third option.  That third option is people like Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino.

Democrats have completely failed to tap into this anger.  Now it will be used against them with devastating results.  People who have never voted in anything but Presidential elections are going to be out in massive numbers in November for the Tea Party.  They are pissed.  They are looking to punish the system.  They will vote against their own self-interests, but they will vote.

What are YOU going to do?

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

See this?

No, that's not a road. It's a Mississippi River waterway choked to the gills, literally, with dead sea life.

What you see above isn't a rural gravel road. It's a Louisiana waterway, its surface completely covered with dead sea life -- a mishmash of species of fish, crabs, stingray and eel. New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV reports that even a whale was found dead in the area.

Fish kills are fairly common along the Gulf Coast, particularly during the summer in the area near the mouth of the Mississippi, the site of this kill. The area is rife with dead zones -- stretches where sudden oxygen depletion can cause widespread death. But those kills tend to be limited to a single species of fish, rather than the broad sort of die-off involved in this kill.

And therein lies the concern of Gulf residents, who suspect this may be yet another side effect of the catastrophic BP oil spill.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser sounded the alarm bells Monday, distributing the photos here to the local media. Nungesser said that no testing is currently planned to determine how the kill may relate to the BP oil disaster, but he pleaded with officials from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to investigate.

But everything is fine in the Gulf of Mexico because the well is capped and the oil is gone.

Turning Japanese

Japan's central bank just got into the currency market overnight, buying dollars to stem the massive inflow into the Japanese Yen.

Fresh after victory in a party leadership contest, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan appeared to be stepping up efforts to wrench the country out of deflation by targeting yen strength, which has weighed on stock prices and corporate profits. 
Even as the U.S. dollar surged as much as 3 percent on the day against the yen, doubts lingered about the ultimate effectiveness of Japan's unilateral yen selling spree. A 15-month solo effort by Switzerland to weaken its currency did little to tame the Swiss franc.
In addition, Japan is trying to put a halt to yen strength while other major central banks such as the Federal Reserve may be considering additional steps to ease policy that could weigh on their respective currencies.
"It is far less clear that intervention will be effective in a world of zero interest rates and excess liquidity, but we think that it still makes sense for Japan to take action to try to arrest yen strength," Richard Jerram, chief Asia economist at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo, said.

All bets are now off this week.  What will the Fed do to keep up?  What will the European Central Bank do to keep up with the Fed?  The carousel is spinning around faster and faster now, and when it breaks down, all hell will break loose.

More Primary Impetus, The Morning After

The primary votes for GOP NH-Sen are still being counted this morning, but the big news is that in Delaware, Christine "Masturbation is bad" O'Donnell has taken a six point win over 9-term Congressman Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination, and in NY's Governor's race, the GOP candidate will not be Rick Lazio, as everyone expected, but Carl "Debtor's Prisons" Paladino, who won by over 20 points.

Castle would have won the general easily, but in the dark blue state of Delaware, suddenly Democrat Chris Coons is the favorite.  The NRSC?  Now ignoring the race.

A National Republican Senatorial Committee source told TPM tonight that the party will be sending money and support elsewhere since O'Donnell, not moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R), is the nominee. O'Donnell, a perennial candidate who has never held political office, trails Democratic nominee Chris Coons.

NRSC officials say that if O'Donnell proves she is viable as a candidate in what is considered to be a blue state, "we would hope Sen. Jim DeMint and the Tea Party Express would invest in her race." If that happens, the NRSC would consider spending for O'Donnell.

The Tea Party Express hit back, calling it a "rash" decision and reminding supporters the NRSC attempted to help Sen. Lisa Murkowski during a close vote in the Alaska Senate primary she lost last month.

"It is because of inexcusable conduct in Delaware and Alaska that so many conservatives have turned to the Tea Party Express, offering their support and their donations," Tea Party Express officials told reporters. "These people have lost faith in the NRSC as just another big-government, Washington, D.C.-based organization that has contributed to the problems this country currently faces."

Meanwhile in New York state, Carl Paladino has the privilege of getting crushed by state AG Andrew Cuomo in the general despite Paladino's...extra curricular activities.

Paladino has generated some controversy since announcing his candidacy. He sent out a series of racist emails, suggested welfare recipients should be housed in prisons, and became quite outspoken in his opposition to the Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Lazio also focused much of his resources on opposing Park51, but it was not enough to overcome Paladino's personal fortune and appeal to populist anger.

We'll see if Paladino's "I'm mad as hell" slogan and personal wealth can put a dent in Cuomo's rather overwhelming lead. The TPM Poll Average shows Cuomo ahead in the general election matchup, 58.3%-25.9%.

We'll see how it shakes out, but frankly Delaware Senate is going to be a pickup for the Dems, and NY Gov will be a bright spot for them.  Seven weeks to go.  We'll see who's left standing.


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