Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last Call

If you're going to lose a post-season game, lose in a no-hitter.  At least people will be talking about you!

Hats off to the Phils and Doc Halliday.  Hell of a game.

But that's why they play best of seven five, folks.

Playing The Paranoia Angle, Part 11

You know Republican Sharron Angle is behind and going for broke against Sen. Harry Reid when she rolls out this particularly vile and racist anti-immigrant ad.

The ad appears to be vaguely referencing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which Reid attached to the defense reauthorization bill last month as an amendment. The DREAM Act wouldn’t give undocumented students special tuition rates, but it would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status. Angle’s ad doesn’t mention that it would also allow certain undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age to eventually obtain legal permanent status by enlisting in the military or attending a university. A June 2010 national poll of 1,008 adults revealed that 70 percent of voters support the DREAM Act, across party lines.

Reid’s campaign released a fact check and a statement on the ad saying, “despicably, Angle’s new ad ramps up her use of incendiary imagery to appeal to Nevadans’ worst fears, while using the exact same thoroughly-debunked lies from her first two ads – lies that independent analysts and fact-checkers have called out as false.”

At this point Republicans are openly playing the race card in a bad economy.   They're not even trying to hide it anymore.  But Latino voters plan to stay home because Democrats have been unable to get immigration legislation passed?  Seems to me that's putting Republicans like Sharron Angle in charge.  Do you think they'll pass fair immigration reform, or will they pass a national version of Arizona's law?

Think about it.  This is what Republicans think about minorities in general:  all they do is take jobs away from good white Americans.

Something to consider next time you hear that the only conceivable reason minorities would support Obama (or any politician of color) is because of their racist hatred of white people

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 10

Damn but this story is moving like a hurricane now.  Ohio AG Richard Cordray is suing GMAC/Ally Bank for filing false affidavits on foreclosure paperwork.  That's fraud, people.  Dave Dayen rolls out the news:

This is big news. I just got off a conference call with Richard Cordray, the Attorney General for the state of Ohio. He has filed a lawsuit in Lucas County (Toledo) Common Pleas Court against GMAC Mortgage and their parent company Ally Financial, in a suit which names Jeffrey Stephan, the infamous “robo-signer” who signed off on up to 10,000 foreclosures a month across the country with affidavits, without verifying the information in the foreclosure documents. The lawsuit alleges fraud on the part of GMAC, along with violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, in filing false affidavits to mislead the courts in what they describe as “hundreds” of Ohio foreclosure cases. And, the Attorney General is treating every single false affidavit filed in an Ohio court as a separate violation, with a fine of up to $25,000, plus additional restitution for the homeowner of an unspecified amount.

Ka-CHING!  I think the Buckeye State may have found a way to resolve its budget problems.

This is a major lawsuit, and as Cordray told reporters, “We’re at the beginning of this, not the middle or end, and we’ll see where it leads us.” For context, approximately 450,000 foreclosures have been filed in Ohio since 2005, and potentially all of them used this robo-signing process. At the outer edge of this, if every one of those foreclosure processes is seen as a single case of fraud, the fines for the entire lending industry would add up to $11.25 BILLION dollars, just in the state of Ohio, not including the extra restitution for homeowners.
I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the end result of this, but for the moment, Cordray is suing GMAC, and all he has to prove is that the lender knowingly presented false affidavits and false documents to the court. Even the hundreds of cases he suggested GMAC committed fraud in would amount to a significant fine.

What’s more, Cordray sent letters seeking meetings with the other four top lenders in the state – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo – to discuss their use of robo-signers and how they plan to remedy the practice. He certainly sounded like someone ready to include them in future lawsuits.

Oh my.   And this is just one state that could collect $11 billion in fines from the mortgage mills.  Imagine what every other state in the nation suddenly got the brilliant idea to try this?  And this doesn't include the civil lawsuits brought by the homeowners, either.

Are we finally getting a rough picture of just how huge of a nightmare this is going to be for the banks, and why halting foreclosures nationwide is all but inevitable here soon?  Delaware has joined the chorus of states asking for a foreclosure freeze as well.

We're starting to get into the big bucks and the big lawsuits here.  Stay tuned.  This one's beginning to really ramp up speed.

Food Stamps For Thought

The July numbers are in for the SNAP program and they show the 20th straight monthly record number of people receiving assistance.

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 41.8 million in July as the jobless rate hovered near a 27-year high, the government said.

Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases jumped 18 percent from a year earlier and increased 1.4 percent from June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a statement on its website. Participation has set records for 20 straight months.

Your depression-era bread lines are mostly contained to Wal-Mart at midnight on the first of the month.  If this 18% yearly growth in the numbers keeps up then we'll be at 50 million people on SNAP by next summer.  Maybe sooner.

One in seven of us are on SNAP.  It will soon be one in six...well, that is until Republicans start in with another round of "welfare reform" again.

Yet More Republican Drape Measuring

GOP Sen. Jim "Global Warming is a Myth" Inhofe of Oklahoma is predicting a 14-seat pickup for the Republicans and control of the Senate...control that would make him chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, presumably so he could shut it down.

"I am very confident that Republicans will take over the Senate, and I'll become chairman of that Environment and Public Works Committee," Inhofe said on Fox News Radio.

Inhofe's a noted skeptic of climate change science who's promised to thwart new regulations on emissions proposed either in Congress, or by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Oklahoma conservative would likely become chairman of the committee if the GOP were to pick up the 10 or more seats they need to win back the majority in the upper chamber.

Inhofe said that he expected Republicans to hold all the Senate seats, and predicted victories for Carly Fiorina (R) over Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in California, Christine O'Donnell (R) over Chris Coons (D) in Delaware, Rep. Mark Kirk (R) over Alexi Giannoulias (D) in Illinois, and Sharron Angle (R) over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in Nevada. 

And of course, as chair Inhofe's first job would be to do as much as possible to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency and reverse any protections implemented over the last couple of years, including those put in place as a result of the BP oil disaster (still out there, folks.)  Some sort of Senate apology or making BP clean up the mess would presumably follow, just after Inhofe votes to defund the EPA completely.

There's a lot at stake in 2010, folks.  Republican control of the Senate will not improve the environment one iota.

Smoke Jumpers

A new Reuters poll shows that Californians are flipping out about the prospect of marijuana being legalized in the state and opposition against the measure is a weed.

Voters plan to oppose a measure on the November 2 ballot to legalize marijuana use by 53 percent to 43 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday that showed a big change of sentiment from June.

Liberally inclined and financially troubled, California was the first state to flout federal law and legalize marijuana for medical use, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll in June showed voters nearly evenly divided on the measure to legalize sales and recreational use, known as Proposition 19.

But this is California, you say...West Coast blue, or in this case, green.  Not so fast.

But California is not as liberal as its reputation: enthusiasm for legalization in Los Angeles and San Francisco is offset by more conservative views in other parts of the state.

And while Democrats support marijuana legalization and outnumber Republicans in the state, Republicans are more consistent in their opposition. Democrats support legalization 54 percent to 45 percent, but Republicans are against it more than two to one, at or 66 percent to 30 percent.

Independents are nearly evenly divided.

Skepticism about legalization runs the gamut from those fearing it will not bring in the hoped-for hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in taxes to those who see marijuana as a real danger.

Michael Smith, a 20-year-old student at Long Beach City College who plans to become a nurse, said marijuana had been a gateway drug for friends who continued to ecstasy and Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.

"I had two friends who were faded on marijuana and Xannies and flipped their truck on the 605 South," he said, referring to the nearby San Gabriel River Freeway. Both died.

Let's not kid ourselves, marijuana is a drug and can be abused like a number of substances.  However, alcohol kills far more people in the US every year and is regulated by the government, along with tobacco.  Personally I don't use the stuff, but let those who want to responsibly can.

State wants to make some revenue off of it?  Go for it.  Still, it seems the very real prospect of this passing in the Golden State just last month has gotten conservatives out in droves against this, and given the turnout model of the enthusiasm gap, I'm not sure even California will be able to pass something like this.

The Kroog Versus The Crazy Train

Yesterday I talked about Republican opposition to rail corridor stimulus in Ohio and Wisconsin, especially.  Paul Krugman weighs in on this crazy train this morning:

It’s not too hard to understand, of course: in real life, as opposed to bad novels, railroads aren’t run by rugged individualists (nor should they be). In fact, passenger rail is generally run by government; even when it’s partially privatized, as in Britain, it’s done so with heavy state intervention to preserve some semblance of competition in a natural monopoly. So rail doesn’t fit the conservative vision of the way things should be.

I suppose there’s some echo of this attitude on the other side; people like me probably have a slight affinity for rail because it’s a kind of socially provided good. But I don’t think it’s comparably irrational: rail just makes a lot of sense for densely populated regions, especially but not only the Northeast Corridor. New York could not function at all without commuter rail, and Amtrak even as it is is crucial to intercity traffic — it’s not just a question of expanding airport capacity, we just don’t have the airspace.

I’d add an informal observation: on casual observation, rail makes even more sense in the digital age. I almost always take trains both to New York and to Washington, and consider the time spent on those trains part of my productive hours — with notebooks and 3G, an Amtrak quiet car is basically a moving office. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Passenger rail in the Midwest, especially Ohio, makes financial sense too.  The reason people drive so much up I-71 and I-75 instead of taking other forms of transportation is A) there's only planes, and B) Cincy-NKY International airport is basically the most expensive airport in the country to fly out of.  A short commuter flight to Indianapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Memphis or Atlanta is certainly possible, Cincy is positioned excellently for reaching all of the Midwest.  You also pay out the nose for doing so.  People drive to Dayton to fly out of here because it's cheaper.

Passenger rail in the Midwest would be an excellent alternative, and that would start with the Cincy-Cleveland corridor.  There's no reason why this town couldn't be a rail hub too.  Look at it this way:  it would cut down on drunk driving during football season around here.

Charting Today's Course

From Econbrowser, your chart for the day.


Given that your income in 2008 was in one of these categories, here's the odds of you being unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged from looking for a job in 2010.

In other words, if you made around minimum wage, or under 20k a year in 2008, the odds of you still having your job are very, very low. 23% chance of being unemployed, 14% of working less than 40 hours a week, and an 8% chance of just having given up totally, or about a 45% chance of being without a full time job.

Meanwhile, if you were making 150k or more in 2008, those total odds of being without a full-time job now are about 7%.

For the vast majority of working-class Americans and especially the working poor, this is a full-blown depression.

Any wonder then that working-class whites are flocking to the Republicans?

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows whites without four-year college degrees preferring GOP candidates by twice the margin of the last two elections, when Democrats made significant gains in the House and Senate. The poll, conducted last month, found this group favoring GOP hopefuls 58% to 36% — a whopping 22 percentage-point gap.

Obama knows it will take a long time to fix our problems, and there are problems that we have that may not be solved anytime soon.  But the unemployment issue means that millions of Americans don't have the time to wait for Obama and the Democrats to fix things, and they are buying the snake oil that the GOP is selling, convinced that it's everyone else getting the help and not themselves.  This chart of course means nothing could be further from the truth, the poorest among us are the ones suffering the most in the job market.

But if you voted for Obama in 2008 and then have been out of work since 2009, you're not going to give much of a damn about turning out again for the Dems in 2010.  I can understand that.  The talk radio types have convinced a lot of people that Obama is giving away the store to African-Americans and Latinos, when unemployment among those groups is actually significantly higher.  The help must be going there, because it's not going to the working-class whites.
The reality is however that the Republicans will only make things worse.  They'll give the money to the wealthiest and aren't ashamed to admit it.  As a friend of mine reminds me, at least the Democrats are honest about spending taxpayer money on social programs.

Quote Of The Day

Josh Marshall --

The best thing ever to happen to Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio (especially Toomey) is the crop of completely whacky Tea Party nominees in maybe a half dozen Senate races across the country. Back under the old normal, Pat Toomey was a pretty out there guy. Club for Growth politics, a staunch advocate of phasing out Social Security. He seemed close to unelectable in Pennsylvania. But up against Angle, Miller, O'Donnell, he's like Bob Dole. 

And Rand Paul, for that matter.  With those four making constant news, Toomey and Rubio are getting a pass from scrutiny and as a result are ahead in the polls, Rubio with a substantial lead now.

There's a much bigger picture here, and all the attention lavished on O'Donnell and Paul, Angle and Joe Miller, is acting as a lightning rod to let the rest of the not-quite-insane Republicans in under the radar, guys like Rick Scott and Daniel Webster in Florida, Ken Buck in Colorado, Rob Portman and John Kasich in Ohio, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California, etc.

Josh has a real point here.  There's so much GOP insane here there's just no fair way to cover it all.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 9

Texas has become the latest state to call for a freeze on all foreclosure proceedings, and the odds of a national moratorium happening is growing quickly as the fallout of Foreclosuregate continues.

Last week, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America joined GMAC in suspending foreclosures in the states where they must be approved by a judge. The judicial states do not include California or Texas. But Mr. Abbott, the Texas attorney general, told lenders in letters dated Oct. 4 that if they used so-called robo-signers — employees who signed thousands of foreclosure affidavits a month, falsely attesting that they had reviewed the material — it would be a violation of Texas law.

As a result, he wrote, “the document and therefore the foreclosure sale would have been invalid.”
The three lenders who are at the center of the controversy, GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, declined to comment. Other lenders singled out by Mr. Abbott include Wells Fargo, CitiMortgage, HSBC and National City.

Meanwhile, shares of a major foreclosure outsourcing company, Lender Processing Services of Jacksonville, Fla., fell 5 percent on Tuesday, adding to a slide that began last week.

The company’s documentation practices are stirring questions, including how the same employee can have wildly varying signatures on mortgage documents. L.P.S. blamed a midlevel manager’s decision to allow employees to sign forms in the name of an authorized employee. It says it has stopped the practice. 

State AG's realize what they have on their hands here: thousands of potential lawsuits and no way of knowing who owns thousands of properties so that the state can assess property taxes.  Several other states including Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland are opening criminal investigations into this disaster.  A national freeze on foreclosures is all but inevitable.

Things are going to get ugly, fast.  The best part:  even if the real estate sale doesn't involve a foreclosure, real estate agents and mortgage servicers may not pull the trigger on any real estate sales until further notice.  It would be a total obliteration of the housing market, and it would take our economy with it.  Lawsuits as bank creditors argue over whose fault this is will get brutal, banks will lose billions, and another TARP bailout will be in order.

This one is playing out in real-time, folks.


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