Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Call

Alan Grayson may have taken a hit for his Taliban Dan ad (and after reading Steve M.'s analysis I do have to agree he went to a Republican level of dirty tricks there and he's paying for it) but he's not backing own from this fight, and has his eyes on a larger target:

I still like the guy. I'm sorry. He just needs to not stoop to Wingnut levels of lying to beat an ass like Daniel Webster. He can beat him fair and square.

Let Them Eat Wrestling Cake

Won't it be fun for working-class Americans to have more GOP Senators in Congress?

Republican Linda McMahon accepted the endorsement of a prominent business interest lobby on Thursday, but her campaign staff abruptly shut down a press conference in which McMahon was asked to explain whether she agreed with all of the organization's positions.

Most notably, McMahon said she believed Congress should consider lowering the federal minimum wage in times of economic distress for small businesses, such as the current recession.

"The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that and a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage," McMahon said.

McMahon did not directly answer a question about whether she would support having a federal minimum wage at all. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the lobbying group that endorsed her Thursday morning, opposes increases in the federal minimum wage, and has denounced it as harmful to small business interests. 

Because the real problem in our economy is that the folks who make a couple million a year think that $7.25 an hour is just too much to pay people, and really we should change the law to make it less.  $15,080 a year before taxes is really outrageous.

To recap, the nice lady running for Senate in Connecticut who made lots of money off of fake wrestling believes real working Americans should earn less than the current minimum wage if the economy's bad.

Republicans are awesome.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 4

Things are moving fast on the Ally/JPMorgan mortgage fraud story now.  Sen. Al Franken has joined the fray, sending out a letter to among other people Helicopter Ben insisting that this issue needs to be investigated for possible criminal charges.  ZH:

The biggest financial story which continues to get absolutely no mention on CNBC just got its latest multi-step escalation: Senator Al Franken has just blasted a letter to Tim Geithner, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Eric Holder, John Walsh, Controller of the Currency, Sheila Bair, and, drumroll, Ben Bernanke, telling the recipients that "each of your agencies has an important role to play in addressing this egregious situation and holding all appropriate actors fully accountable. As such, I respectfully request that you collaborate to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged misconduct. As part of this investigation, it is crucial that Ally and its employees are held fully accountable for any criminal misconduct."

Since if this pervasive mortgage fraud is more than just alleged, the stink will reach to the very top of places like JP Morgan, Ally, and possibly every single bank that has been in the mortgage origination business, something tells us that Ben Bernanke, whose job is precisely to protect the banks' interests will not rush into any investigation for the duration of FASB's existence. It gets better: "Additionally, all homeowners who may have experienced illegitimate foreclosure sales, those who have been forced to defend against illegitimate foreclosure actions, and those who have been harmed must be identified. These individuals must received proper restitution and compensation, as provided for under the law." And the punchline: "It is critical to confirm that no loans provided through the FHA or in conjunction with the HAMP program were associated with Ally's misconduct." Yes, oddly enough the government is about to lose even more credibility once it is discovered that it worked in collaboration with the biggest mortgage fraud scheme in history.

Somebody in the Village may actually notice that underneath all this smoke there's actual flames, especially with Alan Grayson and Al Franken's names attached to the story.  This one is beginning to accelerate at a rapid pace, folks.

I'll keep an eye on it.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe...

Are in fact Bulk and Skull from the Power Rangers.


Special Sauce, Lettuce, And A Hell Of A Lot Of Cheese

The Wingers are in full Cackle of Rads mode this morning over this WSJ story that McDonald's may drop its crappy "health insurance" program because of "Obamacare regulations".

Only one problem, as Jon Cohn points out.  It's not going to happen, and that's actually a bad thing.

First, the basics: One of the new regulations about to take effect under the Affordable Care Act requires that insurers spend no less than 80 to 85 percent (depending on the kind of insurer) of money on actual patient care, rather than overhead, marketing, or profit. McDonald's isn't happy about that. In a memo it submitted to the Obama Administration last week, the company says that the insurance it provides some 30,000 employees won't meet that standard and that, without some kind of special waiver, they would likely have to drop the policies. It's just the latest in a string of complaints and warnings that the fast food industry has made about what it believes is excessive regulation of employer provided health insurance.

By this morning, both McDonalds and the administration were saying the story is overblown. McDonalds says it has no plans to drop the coverage and that it's been in discussions with the administration over how to make sure it can keep offering the policies. The administration is saying much the same thing--that it's aware of the issue, has been talking to industry representatives, and has already made clear these plans will be exempt from some of the early regulations on insurance.

More important, the administration has yet to finalize the rule about how insurance companies spend their money (or what is known as the "Medical Loss Ratio".) It's entirely possible the administration will phase in the requirement slowly. Most likely, then, McDonald's employees who like these plans will get to keep buying them, at least for the immediate future.

So no, McDonald's is not going to drop its mini-med plans.  The bad news is mini-med plans are horrible and dropping them would force McDonald's to provide real health insurance options.

But is that a good thing? As the Journal story makes clear, the policies in question are so-called mini-med plans with very limited benefits. In the case of McDonald's, according to the Journal, there are two options: Employees who go with the minimum plan pay $14 a week for a policy that won't cover more than $2,000 in medical bills a year. Employees who opt for the "generous" option pay about $32 a week for a policy that maxes out at $10,000.

Stop and run the math on that.  $14 a week for $2000 coverage in a year.  $728 dollars on a minimum wage burger flipper salary to cover $2,000 in medical bills per year, max.  That's not insurance, that's a scam.  paying $1668 a year for $10,000 in coverage isn't much better.  You can eat that up in just one ER visit.  So yes, the Obamacare regs would make these plans invalid.  Odds are good McDonald's will get their waiver.

In the long run, McDonald's employees need policies that protect them in case of serious medical problems. And they need policies they can afford. They'll get those policies thanks to the Affordable Care Act--but not until 2014, because the administration and Congress couldn't come up with enough money to implement the full scheme sooner.

And you can thank the GOP for that.  E.D. Kain has more on those 2014 plans, too.  When they get here.

Rahm Boned: New Blood, Part Do

Rahmbo's out, Pete Rouse is the new White House Chief of Yelling Stalking People In The Shower Hippie Punching Staff.

Two people close to Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday, and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday.

The two people familiar with his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Emanuel's announcement, said he will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods on Monday.

"He intends to run for mayor," one of the people told The Associated Press.

Both people said they did not know when Emanuel would make an official announcement about his mayoral bid but that he would launch a website with a message to Chicago voters in the near future.

Not going to retire the tag, but a Chief of Staff leaving a month before election day is about as "screw you" as it comes.  I said I wanted him gone and now he is.  Obama said he would go after the midterms, Rahmbo apparently had other ideas.

Funny.  Doesn't feel much like any sort of victory for Obama here.

I'll Take Literature For $500, Alex

Tbogg wins the internets for the day as he defines Andrew Breitbart's warp speed under-the-bus tossing of his former lackey James O' Keefe:

This is the way a bromance ends
This is the way a bromance ends
This is the way a bromance ends
Not with a bang, but a twitter


The Art Of The Deal

Senate GOP:  We won't shut down the government right before the midterms and basically murder ourselves if you'll block Obama's recess appointments so that we can continue to block Obama's appointments indefinitely afterward.  Deal?

Senate Dems:  Sure, that seems fair!

Senate Democrats agreed Wednesday night to a Republican demand to block President Obama from making recess appointments while Congress is out of town campaigning for the midterm elections.

Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks, a move that will prevent Obama from making emergency appointments, according to Senate sources briefed on the talks.

Democrats agreed earlier in the day to a Republican demand to cut spending levels for government agencies in order to pass a stop-gap spending measure.

Democrats are eager to get back home to defend their record to voters and they couldn’t do that until the spending bill passed.

Under the law, the president can only make a recess appointment if the Senate is adjourned for more than three consecutive days.

By scheduling pro-forma sessions on Mondays and Fridays, lawmakers can take away Obama’s ability to make recess appointments.

You know, a smarter Senate Dem leadership might have said "You know what, you want to shut down the government right before the election?  Go for it."  And sure, the Republicans would have taken all the blame and it would have been a nightmare right before the election.

Dems folded anyway.

Alas, you go to war with the invertebrates you have, not the vertebrates you wish you had.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 16k to 453k, but as usual last week's number was revised upwards to 458k, meaning it was really only a 5k drop in claims.  Continuing claims up slightly but last week was revised up nearly 100k.  more 99'ers fell off the cliff too.

Still not good news.  Still on track to lose about 75k jobs a month.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 3

More on the whole mortgage foreclosure scam that is falling apart in Florida and across the country from Yves at NakedCap, who has been running this story down for months now and posts this recap of the situation.  Who has the note to the mortgage?  Nobody knows, least of all the banks foreclosing on people anyway.

One of my colleagues had a long conversation with the CEO of a major subprime lender that was later acquired by a larger bank that was a major residential mortgage player. This buddy went through his explanation of why he thought mortgage trusts were in trouble if more people wised up to how they had messed up with making sure they got the note. The former CEO was initially resistant, arguing that they had gotten opinions from top law firms. My contact was very familiar with those opinions, and told him how qualified they were, and did not cover the little problem of not complying with the terms of the pooling and servicing agreement. He also rebutted other objections of the CEO. They guy then laughed nervously and said, “Well, if you’re right, we’re fucked. We never transferred the paper. No one in the industry transferred the paper.”

This creates a lot of problems. If the originator is bankrupt (New Century, IndyMac), the bankruptcy trustee is supposed to approve any assets leaving the BK’d estate. I’m told bankruptcy judges who have been asked were not happy to hear this sort of thing might be taking place, which strongly suggests this activity is going on without the requisite approvals. And who from the BK’d entity can endorse it over? It doesn’t have any more officers or employees. Similarly, a lot of the intermediary entities (the B and C in the A-B-C-D chain earlier) are long dead. How do you obtain their endorsements?

Now you understand why everyone is resorting to fabricated documents and bogus affidavits. There is no simple way to fix this mess. The cure for the mortgage documents puts the loan out of eligibility for the trust. In order to cure, on a current basis, they have to argue that the loan goes retroactively back into the trust. This is the cure that the banks have been unwilling to do, because it is a big problem for the MBS.

The former subprime lender CEO still refused this to consider this a problem: “Oh, Congress will pass a law.” My colleague pointed out that this was a state law matter, Congress had no authority, and even the Supine Court was unlikely to intervene in well settled real estate law. The arguments from the CEO were distressingly familiar, bank industry incumbents seem to resort to the same script: any borrower friendly solution will wreck the economy, the banks will have to get another bailout to get themselves out of this mess.

So here we are back to 2007-8. If you and I make a serious mistake at our jobs, we get fired, and if we make a really serious error, our company could perish. But when bankers screw up, and leave a lot of collateral damage in their wake, they are confident that their sugar daddies in DC will clean up the mess for them.

And the worse is they might even be correct if we let them get away with it this time. 

Since turning mortgages into investments meant all these middlemen, the question of who owned the actual mortgage itself became a complete mystery.  The big mortgage lenders decided that anything that they could have touched, they in fact owned, and started foreclosing as the best way to sweep the mess under the rug.  Because there were so many foreclosures and they had to be processed fast, nobody bothered to check the particulars, or they faked it (literally, faked it).

Judges took their word on it and made the foreclosure happen.  Only now, some two years after the financial meltdown, we're now finding out that a lot of these foreclosures are literal robbery, theft of property by banks that don't own the mortgage.  GMAC/Ally Bank is one, and yesterday JPMorgan Chase also went into "review" of foreclosures.  More banks will follow, and soon.

And do you know which member of Congress has been out front on this?

Alan Grayson.  His Orlando, Florida district is right in the heart of this foreclosure nightmare.

No wonder the Republicans are so eager to destroy him.  He's about to to seriously wreck the banks.

Are The Dems Closing The Enthusiam Gap?

Evidence is increasing that the Democrats are beginning to close the "enthusiasm gap" with motivated Republicans as more Democratic voters are finally beginning to pay attention to the elections in less than five weeks.

Over the past two months Republicans held significant leads in generic ballot polls of likely voters.  Rasmussen Reports had Republicans with a 12 point lead (48%-36%) in their generic ballot poll in the mid-August, and a ten-point lead (48%-38%) in mid-September.  Another CNN poll from one week ago gave Republicans a nine-point lead (54%-45%) among likely voters.  Now those leads seem to be dwindling.  The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll has the Republican lead down to six points (46%-40%).  A poll released today from NBC/Wall Street Journal has the Republican advantage down to just 3 points (46%-43%).  Those numbers are still not good for Democrats, but they certainly look better than the data from two weeks ago.

There are a number of possible reasons behind the shriking enthusiasm gap.  Some believe that voters are just now beginning to pay attention to the midterm elections (since most people busy themselves with other matters of life such as working).  As more poeple begin to pay attention, the theory is that Democrats are gaining voters who previously were tuning out.  Other analysts have suggested that Tea Party candidates and the Republican proposals are scaring Democratic voters to the polls.  For instance, liberals may be disappointed about the loss of the public option, but they certainly do not want to see Republicans repeal the progressive health care reform provisions that were passed.  Finally, the Democratic Party has just recently begun their intensive get-out-the-vote campaigns and activated their organizaitonal machine.  It is possible that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit in the recent polls.

Evidence of this trend is beginning to show up in some individual races, too.  In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton has taken a big lead in the last few weeks precisely because of motivated Democratic voters.

A new Minnesota Public Radio News-Humphrey Institute poll shows Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton with a significant and growing lead over Republican Tom Emmer.

A month ago, the poll showed Dayton and Emmer deadlocked at 34 percent each. But the latest survey shows Dayton with an 11 percentage point lead over Emmer -- 38 to 27 percent.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who had 13 percent a month ago, now has 16 percent according to the new poll.

So what's changed?

"The big story in September is that the Democrats have woken up from their summer slumber," said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs, who oversaw the poll.

"When you go back to August, you find 57 percent of Democrats who are likely to vote saying that they had only a little or really no interest in voting come November," Jacobs said. "Now we found a substantial 83 percent of Democrats saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of interest in this election."

That 83 percent enthusiasm number for Democrats matches the Republicans', meaning the GOP has lost the edge in election excitement it had enjoyed over Democrats.

If the story on the Republican side has been the rise of the Tea Party, then the story on the Democratic side is the voter who takes the Tea Party threat seriously.   Granted, these are only a couple of examples and while polls are getting better for the Dems in some cases, they are getting worse for them in other individual races.  And the overall numbers still favor the Republicans.

Both sides are trying to get out as many voters as possible.  Whoever wins that battle will get control of Congress in January.

[UPDATEHotline On-Call's Reid Wilson says there's no turnaround, and in fact the Dems are more likely now to lose additional Senate seats in WV, CT, and WI, giving the GOP control of the Senate, too.


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