Friday, May 18, 2012

Last Call

Dear America --

"We can't really know anything about how massively cutting revenues with back-loaded spending dumped on Bush's successor unbalanced the government or the economy, because if Obama can't handle the fact Bush took Clinton's balanced budget and put us in the worst financial meltdown in 3 generations, well he's not very good of a President, is he?  Why don't you blame the firefighters who have been there for almost four years instead of the arsonists who were there for eight and now long gone?"

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:

The new blame-Bush-forever argument shows, once and for all, that the Democrats' Bush obsession has raced completely out of control. Barack Obama has been president nearly four years and is asking for four more. The election is about him.

American history didn't exist until January 20, 2009 you know.   Mathematics, economics, those are for idealists and fools.  Real men blame Obama for not being able to fix the problem despite nearly four years of continuous Republican objection to him being President at all.

You Cannot Grasp The True Form Of Our Plan

What's the GOP plan in case the Supremes actually do axe the Affordable Care Act? It's contained in this box.

 Nothing, of course. Absolutely nothing.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday said Congressional Republicans would not unite around specific legislation to replace President Obama’s national health care law this year, but would instead present an alternative market-based “vision."
In their 2010 “Pledge to America,” Republicans vowed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare if they gained power. Though the GOP-controlled House has voted to repeal the law since taking power in January 2011, it has not yet offered replacement legislation. If the U.S. Supreme Court were to strike down the law next month, Republicans would receive increased scrutiny about their lack of a plan to replace it.
“We do feel obligated to articulate our vision for replace,” Ryan said when asked about the matter during an editorial meeting with the Washington Examiner. “Now, we’ve got nine weeks of session left. Do we want to cram through our own 2,700 page vision? No, that’s what the country hated. But do we believe in patient-centered health care and market-based medicine? A lot of us have put time and effort into this, yeah.”
Luckily Paul Ryan doesn't actually have to do anything to give us a "market-centered approach" should the law struck down, because that would be called "America before the Affordable Care Act was passed." You know, where death panels full of insurance claims adjusters and approvers would simply declare people too sick for insurance and medical care would become unaffordable and retroactively deny valid coverage they didn't feel like paying for through rescission or imposing lifetime plan coverage limits. And if you somehow believe Republicans will make insurance companies pay for the "popular" parts of the ACA without the mandate to spread around risk and cost, you probably do need medical attention.

Of course, if Ryan's previous plan was passed, we could just turn everyone over to these market solutions, including Medicare, Medicaid and VA patients. They'll end up as what's in the box too.

The Kroog Versus The Biggest Bubble In History

Paul Krugman goes down to his local economist watering hole, bellies up to the fiduciary bar and orders two fingers of macroeconomic schadenfreude to pour on the floor in memory of the austerity-plagued euro.

The story so far: When the euro came into existence, there was a great wave of optimism in Europe — and that, it turned out, was the worst thing that could have happened. Money poured into Spain and other nations, which were now seen as safe investments; this flood of capital fueled huge housing bubbles and huge trade deficits. Then, with the financial crisis of 2008, the flood dried up, causing severe slumps in the very nations that had boomed before. 

At that point, Europe’s lack of political union became a severe liability. Florida and Spain both had housing bubbles, but when Florida’s bubble burst, retirees could still count on getting their Social Security and Medicare checks from Washington. Spain receives no comparable support. So the burst bubble turned into a fiscal crisis, too. 

Europe’s answer has been austerity: savage spending cuts in an attempt to reassure bond markets. Yet as any sensible economist could have told you (and we did, we did), these cuts deepened the depression in Europe’s troubled economies, which both further undermined investor confidence and led to growing political instability. 

And now comes the moment of truth. 

Indeed, the last two weeks have been rather unkind to the European markets.  Spanish bond spreads in particular are rather nasty.   Once again Krugman notes that the timeframe here for the collapse of the euro currency would be a half-life measured in months, not years.

So now what? Right now, Greece is experiencing what’s being called a “bank jog” — a somewhat slow-motion bank run, as more and more depositors pull out their cash in anticipation of a possible Greek exit from the euro. Europe’s central bank is, in effect, financing this bank run by lending Greece the necessary euros; if and (probably) when the central bank decides it can lend no more, Greece will be forced to abandon the euro and issue its own currency again. 

This demonstration that the euro is, in fact, reversible would lead, in turn, to runs on Spanish and Italian banks. Once again the European Central Bank would have to choose whether to provide open-ended financing; if it were to say no, the euro as a whole would blow up. 

Yet financing isn’t enough. Italy and, in particular, Spain must be offered hope — an economic environment in which they have some reasonable prospect of emerging from austerity and depression. Realistically, the only way to provide such an environment would be for the central bank to drop its obsession with price stability, to accept and indeed encourage several years of 3 percent or 4 percent inflation in Europe (and more than that in Germany). 

Both the central bankers and the Germans hate this idea, but it’s the only plausible way the euro might be saved. For the past two-and-a-half years, European leaders have responded to crisis with half-measures that buy time, yet they have made no use of that time. Now time has run out. 

So eternal financing by the ECB is unsustainable.  And serious price inflation in Germany where the Merkel government is already in trouble?  Also not happening.  That leaves the whole "euro blowing up" thing.  I keep saying this is the biggest threat to President Obama's re-election, not Mitt Romney.  If the euro goes completely pear-shaped and takes the US with it, we're going to end up neck deep in austerity crazed Republicans and we'll get this same mess in Europe now all over again a year or two down the road here.

It's enough to drive a man to drink.

It's Not Me... It's You. Really.

(CBS/AP) RICHMOND, Va. - The Virginia House of Delegates, voting in Tuesday's wee morning hours, has blocked an openly gay Richmond prosecutor from appointment to a general district judgeship in the city.
Tracy Thorne-Begland received 33 yes votes, 31 no votes - all from Republicans - and 10 abstentions in his bid to become what gay-rights advocates contend would be Virginia's first openly gay jurist.
Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring said today that Virginia lawmakers who scuttled the judicial nomination did so without any justification that he was unqualified for the bench, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"It's hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it's a form of bigotry," Herring said. 

So the next time we hear "Oh no, it's not that we don't like gays, it's just that we want to define marriage" you are free and clear to call bullshit.  This had nothing to do with marriage, and everything to do with sending a message.  Stay in your place, message received loud and clear.  It's not exclusively GOP bias, but they corner the market.

Please, oh please let this type of stupidity end soon.

From The Mouths Of Babes

Westboro protesters were put in their place... by a 9-year-old boy.  You can read the entire story on NPR's site.

As Akrouche wrote on her Facebook page, she and Josef were on the campus of Washburn University in Topeka when they encountered some of the protesters from the tiny Westboro Baptist Church, which has gained notice in recent years for protesting against homosexuality, abortion and other issues outside the funerals of military veterans and celebrities.
"Josef was determined to make his own statement so we went to the car and with pencil and his sketch pad, he made up his own little sign that reads 'GOD HATES NO ONE,' " his mom wrote. "Those people are scary but he stood strong, was respectful and stood by his convictions. He will be a good man, I have no doubt. I got my Mothers Day present early."
She has every right to be proud.  It takes a lot of innocence to counter the stain that the Westboro followers have left behind.  This boy was respectful even of them, but not only is he correct, he really did show an extraordinary amount of grace.

I think we can expect mighty things from him in the future.  I would pray that we hear less of Westboro Baptist Church.

War Pigs In The Senate

Old Age Mutant Nimrod Turtle is at it again, this time he's blocking the latest round of economic sanctions ahead of Iranian talks next week because the sanctions don't explicitly state military force is "on the table".

The sanctions are meant to shut down any financial deals with Iran's powerful state oil and tanker enterprises, stripping Tehran of crucial oil revenues. The new bill would build on penalties signed into law by President Barack Obama in December that threatened sanctions against any foreign institutions trading with Iran's central bank.

Democrats wanted to pass the proposed penalties ahead of talks between world powers and Iran next week, and had support from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

But Republicans sought a stronger statement in the bill that the use of U.S. military force was an option.
"These sanctions are great. I hope they will change Iranian behavior. They haven't yet, and I don't think they ever will," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

"I want more on the table," Graham said.

 Wait, what?   Sanctions haven't worked yet, so we'll block additional sanctions so they can never work, thus proving our point that sanctions can't work?  That's the big plan?

Boy, remember when Democrats were called traitors just for talking about alternatives to straight up war in the Middle East over the last decade?  You know, last week?

At this point Mitch McConnell is just undermining the President's authority.  Period.  As a voting constituent, I'm thinking he should knock it the hell off.


Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 87

Foreclosuregate is baaaaaaaaaack, and just as predicted, the massive settlement between the various states Attorneys General and the mortgage giants has resulted in the complete lockup and lockdown of the housing market.  Foreclosures have now all but ground to a complete halt.

Foreclosure filings in the U.S. fell to a five-year low last month as lenders sought to avoid seizing property and a housing recovery showed signs of taking hold.

The number of default, auction and seizure notices sent to homeowners in April totaled 188,780, down 14 percent from a year earlier and 5 percent from the previous month, according to RealtyTrac Inc. It was the lowest tally since July 2007, before the onset of the biggest housing crash in seven decades, the Irvine, California-based data seller said today in a report.

The “gradually rising foreclosure tide” forecast by RealtyTrac after a February settlement by the nation’s biggest mortgage servicers over faulty practices has yet to materialize, limiting the number of properties on the market and propping up prices. Banks are finding alternatives to home seizures, selling distressed property for less than the amount owed on the mortgage, known as a short sale, or modifying loans for borrowers struggling to keep up payments while an improving economy is helping to ease defaults.

“Things are getting better and the number of vulnerable households is going down,” Paul Willen, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a telephone interview. “The pool of borrowers is much more stable than it was two or three years ago.”

The U.S. mortgage delinquency rate fell in the first quarter to 7.4 percent, the lowest level in more than three years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said yesterday. The rate peaked at 10.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and was last lower in the third quarter of 2008, at 6.99 percent. 

So this is good news, right?  Sure, the same way limited bleeding around a steel spike in your chest is "good news" because you have a blocked aorta as a result.

The lack of foreclosures is a symptom of serious, serious sickness in the housing market.  The foreclosure logjam favors the banks, because at this point they don't have to take the losses until they repossess.  If they drag their feet and the foreclosure process takes a couple years, well nobody loses.

You know, except for property tax collection and the whole urban blight thing.  The fact of the matter is once this foreclosure blockage crumbles, the market is going to basically tank.  Whether or not it happens before the November election or not, I couldn't tell you.  I'd say Wall Street wasn't crazy enough to commit suicide, but they know they'll get bailed out again if the economy collapses.   On the other hand, they're getting free money and no losses now by sitting on these foreclosures and doing nothing.

We'll see.  But this is going to be brutal when this particular boil gets lanced.


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