Saturday, August 6, 2011

Geitner Thee Hence!

A number of Republicans are calling for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's head in the midst of this downgrade disaster, and if it weren't for the fact a new Treasury Secretary worth a damn would be immediately and permanently blocked by the Senate GOP, I'd be agreeing with them.

GOP Sen. Jim DeMint is of course one of those in Congress who would basically assure any confirmation fight would last well into 2012.

"The president should demand that Secretary Geithner resign and immediately replace him with someone who will help Washington focus on balancing our budget and allowing the private sector to create jobs," DeMint said in a report Saturday in The Hill.

"For months he opposed all efforts to reduce the debt in return for a debt ceiling increase. His opposition to serious spending and debt reforms has been reckless and now the American people will pay the price," said DeMint, a Tea Party favorite.

Rep. Michele Bachmann also wants her pound of Timmy's flesh.
“We were warned by all the credit agencies that a failure to deal with the debt would lead to this downgrade in our credit rating,” she said. “But instead, the president submitted a budget that had a $1.5 trillion deficit, the he request a $2.4 trillion blank check on top of that. President Obama is destroying the foundations of our economy, one beam at a time. I call on the president to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and submit a plan that balances the budget in year. Turn the economy around and put our people back to work.”

Other Tea Party candidates are picking up the call as well.  It's clear what the plan is:  If Geithner goes, then it's an admission that the Republicans are correct on the "theory" that the S&P downgrade is all President Obama's fault.  At the same time, there are a number of progressives like myself who freely admit that appointing Tim Geithner as SecTreas was arguably the President's biggest mistake in his first term.

Now I'm a strong supporter of the President.  I am not however a anywhere close to a fan of Geithner.  Not only should have the President gotten rid of him sooner, he never should have appointed anyone that close to Hank Paulson to the job in the first place.  Geither has made a chain reaction of economic disaster events possible, from refusal to go after the banks in 2009, to weakening the Dodd-Frank legislation, to his own silly tax return nonsense.
And now we're in a situation where getting rid of him becomes a proxy fight for rejecting the President himself, leaving a very rotten taste in my mouth.  Getting rid of him now would only ensure a huge confirmation fight and no leadership at Treasury at a time where we're going to need it.  As much as I despise Geithner, sacking him now would only be handing the GOP another loaded weapon to go after the President with.

It's infuriating.  If there's one guy who has been wrong in the Obama administration since day one, it's Geithner...and yet getting rid of him now is a tacit admission of the President's mistake.  It's smart of the White House to go after S&P's credibility on this, but they're going to have to fight back against the Republicans as well.  The Geithner problem I've been warning about for 30 months has now officially bitten the President and the country right on the ass.

It's arguably worth considering if trashing Geithner is better in the long run, even if it does play into the GOP's hands in the short run.  That's not my call, however.

Walker-ing It Back

With Wisconsin GOP state senators facing recalls next week and Gov. Scott Walker facing his own recall effort, Walker is scrambling to shore up his defenses as the recall election is absolutely seen as a referendum on his policies.  For now, that means Gov. Walker is giving up on his indefensible and controversial plan to close DMV offices in Democratic strongholds in the wake of the state's new Voter ID law.

In a sharp reversal, the state of Wisconsin announced yesterday it will expand Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) services to accommodate the increased demand for photo identification in the wake of a controversial new Voter ID law. As ThinkProgress reported last week, after signing a Voter ID law earlier this year that disenfranchises tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters, Gov. Scott Walker (R) then called for closing as many as 16 DMV offices across the state, making it even more difficult for residents to obtain the ID they needed to regain their electoral voice. 

Walker and the state's GOP senators have been getting hit hard on this and with the election expected to be very close on Tuesday, the damage control is on.  Of course, should enough GOP state senators survive the recall vote in order to keep control with the Republicans, I'm betting this plan will be changed back very quietly.

The bigger picture of course is that Wisconsin is the new battleground for the country.  The Club For Growth/ALEC/Koch Brothers machine has all but bought the state's Republicans and taken completely over the state with the intent to wipe out unions, disenfranchise voters, and lock the state down as a permanent Republican outpost.  If the Democrats can win the state senate back next week and recall Walker next year, there still may be fight left in the country.

If not, expect ALEC legislative franchising to come to your state, if it's not there already.

No, Both Sides Do Not Do It, McMegan

John Cole finds that theTea Party nearly destroying the country (and running rampant for decades before that) is all fine according to my favorite Villager because a quarter of a century ago the Democrats were mean to Ronald Reagan.

And yes, the Democrats had their own role to play—both in starting this monstrous game of tit-for-tat that we’re now all trapped in (liberal pundits moaning about partisanship and norms seem to have wiped the name “Bork” from their consciousness), and in getting the progressive caucus to make tea-party like noises.

Verbatim Megan McArdle, whose search to prove that the Democrats and President Obama are just as much to blame for this mess as the Republicans spans a generation-old grudge.  This is all payback for Bork, you see.  Also, progressives are just like the Tea Party.

But really it's about Dems putting a dent in Saint Ronaldus's perfect record, and for that crime against the American people, liberals, the economy, and anyone not making six figures has to burn in hell.

In a sense the last 25 years really has been about Bork, hasn't it?

Playin' The Blues

Harrison Harmonicas, a small Rockford-based company that last year opened the only harmonica production facility in the United States, is closing.
The company had marketed the B-Radical as the Steinway of harmonicas and targeted professional players who have long complained about the inconsistent quality of standard, mass-produced instruments.
The company has been purchased and all orders will be filled.  It is sad to see the company close, however.  They had started to win over critics, who have a point but are far from correct.  Mass produced instruments are necessary to bring the mass public an option.  Not everyone can shell out several hundred or thousands of dollars into a potential hobby.  A serious musician will eventually invest in a more detailed and customized instrument.  I'm frankly surprised that this was the only one of its kind, which always makes me feel sentimental when a good run is over.

Facebook Facepalm Redux

There are many Missouri teachers who are annoyed with the restrictions put on their Facebook communication with students.  Rightfully so.  This is a pitiful example of using legal restrictions to replace common sense.  It isn't going to slow down communication with those it is intended to block.  Teachers and students who decide to have inappropriate relationships will still communicate privately.

What they have done is blocked a mentoring path for kids and started a slippery slope towards restricting communication that has become common, such as texting and email.  Several opponents are concerned about how vague the language is, and the ways it can be expanded and exploited.  I'm disgusted.

And A Mess Of Bam's Barbecue

And Fox Nation leaves this in a bag on America's doorstep, lights it on fire, rings the bell and runs. (h/t Oliver Willis)

Fox News gives up on racist dogwhistle, trades it in for a racist vuvuzela. God. #p2

Ahh, the President's birthday celebration had black people at it, and didn't create jobs!  This is where we are right now, it's a brutally long campaign season, folks...and the rampant, ugly, and now massively overt racism by the GOP and their enablers is only beginning. People ask me how President Obama can put up with such drooling idiocy, and I remind them that the President is never the true audience for shock jock racism like this.

In a sick way, you have to admire the blue steel hatred Fox has for the man. When the dog whistles are put away and the megaphones are brought out instead, it's proof that the President's most recent maneuver has demoralized the Tea Party faithful and that it's time to throw the red meat into the pit to get some action going (and gives more "moderate" conservative pundits the chance to pretend to disavow the bomb-throwing to look "centrist and principled.")

It must mean then that the rank and file Tea Party disagree with John "Orange Julius" Boehner's assessment that the GOP got 98% of what they wanted in the debt deal. Indeed, many Americans are furious at the Republicans in the wake of this week's deal and the weeks of hostage-taking that preceded it.

Time to both fire up the base and take the higher ground at the same time while Eric Cantor blames the extension of federal unemployment benefits for causing unemployment itself, and vows to hold it hostage next.  Always onwards to the next Pyrrhic victory, our GOP friends.

Grading The Downgrade

Last night Standard & Poor's dropped a bombshell, downgrading the country's credit rating from AAA to AA+ and imposing a negative outlook on the economy over the next 18 months.

In its report Friday, S&P ruled that the U.S. fell short: "The downgrade reflects our opinion that the ... plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics."

S&P also cited dysfunctional policymaking in Washington as a factor in the downgrade. "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

The downgrade makes little sense as a fiscal move, but lots of sense politically.  S&P specifically went after the Tea Party for refusing to raise revenues in any way, and that could very well be the key to getting some real reaction out of the so-called "Super Committee" that the debt deal created.  Republicans are expecting to appoint people who will never allow revenue fixes, but this downgrade and the fact all Democrats have to do is simply let the Bush tax cuts expire on the rich at the end of next year means there's lots of leverage...if the Dems use it.

But that's the trick, isn't it.  Meanwhile, let's not forget S&P is one of the credit agencies that assigned AAA ratings to subprime loans, helping very much to enable the financial crisis that created this mess in the first place.  It's not like they have a lot of objective credibility right now, especially since the other two credit agencies, Fitch and Moody's, are sticking with the AAA rating on the US for now.

We'll see where this goes on the Monday bond markets, but we're in uncharted waters here.  Full S&P statement (pdf) here.

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