Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nobody Cares About Your Feelings

NEW YORK - On the mental list of slights and outrages that just about every major figure on Wall Street is believed to keep on President Barack Obama, add this one: When he met recently with a group of CEOs at Blair House, there was no representative from any of the six biggest banks in America.

Not one!

"If they don't hate us anymore, why weren't any of us there?" a senior executive at one of the Big Six banks said recently in trying to explain his hostility toward the president.

"It's not so much just this one thing,” he said. “Who cares about one event? It's just the pattern where they tell you things are going to change, that they appreciate what we do, that capital markets are important, but then the actions are different and they continue to want to score political points on us."
"If they don't hate us anymore?"

What a bunch of whiny bitches.

Obama's Federal reserve has been printing them endless money to gamble their way to prosperity, and these people are upset that Obama won't personally whisper nice things in their ear.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stupid States, Smart States

This shit still just baffles me:
Ohio and Wisconsin will not be getting the new intercity rail lines whose construction Washington agreed to fully fund just ten months ago. The November election of Republican governors meant the revocation of state support for projects that would have connected some Midwestern cities to the national rail network for the first time in decades, including along a line between Milwaukee and Madison and another between Cleveland and Cincinnati. These politicians ran successful campaigns partly based on a refusal to subsidize future train operations.

Today, the federal Department of Transportation announced that it would reappropriate the $1.2 billion in funds once meant for Ohio and Wisconsin to thirteen other states, with the large majority heading to California and Florida, which are building the nation’s only true high-speed lines. Wisconsin will be able to keep $14 million, a tiny fraction of its original award, to spend on improving the existing Amtrak Hiawatha service.

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority will receive $624 million in funds, increasing the state’s total take in the national intercity rail program to $3.9 billion. It announced late last month that it would build a 65-mile corridor in the state’s Central Valley for the first phase of what will eventually be a $45 billion network of 220 mph trains connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. $616 million of the allocations received today will be dedicated specifically to extend that initial line south to Bakersfield. This should relieve the recently popular rhetoric that the project is a “train to nowhere” because its initial construction would terminate in the little-known city of Corcoran; the new expenditures would connect Fresno and Bakersfield, whose metropolitan areas collectively house 1.7 million people, no insignificant sum. That said, future funding from Washington will be necessary to pay for the whole project, even on top of the $10 billion approved for the project by state taxpayers in 2008.

While smaller, Florida’s $342 million grant represents the last piece of federal funding necessary to pay for an 84-mile line planned for the Tampa-Orlando corridor, along which trains traveling at up to 186 mph will run by 2015 if all goes to plan. As long as the proposal is signed off by new Governor Rick Scott — not the world’s biggest rail supporter, but not fully against it either — construction could begin in 2012. The $2.7 billion project now has $2.35 billion in U.S. funds backing it and $280 million in state funds committed.
Congrats to Florida and California on lowing their unemployment rates and getting sweet new high speed rail in the process. Hey Ohio and Wisconsin, try not electing such morons next time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wishing For Pain

Senate Republicans' "Dr. No" spending hawk warned Sunday that America would experience "apocalyptic pain" with 15-18 percent unemployment and the "middle class destroyed" if it didn't get its fiscal house in order.

"If we don't fix the problems in front of us everybody's going to pay a significant price," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on "Fox News Sunday."

Coburn warned of the United States ending up like Greece or Ireland if proper austerity measures aren't taken, or like Spain, Italy or Japan, which are in danger of similar financial collapse.

In May, the IMF and EU agreed to extend a $145 billion bailout package to Greece. In November, a $113 billion bailout package was extended to keep Ireland afloat.

"Everyone else in the world that's doing this today is getting punished," he said of runaway spending.
A: Like Alan Simpson, you can tell that Coburn gets his rocks off talking about how much people are going to suffer.

B: The type of austerity that is currently being forced on Ireland, the kind that Tom Coburn is trying for, is the perfect way to reach 15-18% unemployment and destroy the middle class.

He's arguing for policies that will inflict mass suffering by claiming that mass suffering will occur unless we undertake them.

Then again, none of this makes sense because he's not being honest about what he wants to do.

He thinks poor people have it too good, and if the economy hasn't wrought enough damage, he wants to make sure they feel that those with the least feel more pain.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Train of Thought Lounge: Danger Doom

Needed to happen:

No Consequences For Being Wrong

In the world of economics, it seems no amount of fucking up is enough to get people to stop taking your advice. Paul Krugman: (via atrios)
For the fact is that the Obama stimulus — which itself was almost 40 percent tax cuts — was far too cautious to turn the economy around. And that’s not 20-20 hindsight: many economists, myself included, warned from the beginning that the plan was grossly inadequate. Put it this way: A policy under which government employment actually fell, under which government spending on goods and services grew more slowly than during the Bush years, hardly constitutes a test of Keynesian economics.

Now, maybe it wasn’t possible for President Obama to get more in the face of Congressional skepticism about government. But even if that’s true, it only demonstrates the continuing hold of a failed doctrine over our politics.

It’s also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we’ve been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we’ve been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — now at a half-century low.

The free-market fundamentalists have been as wrong about events abroad as they have about events in America — and suffered equally few consequences. “Ireland,” declared George Osborne in 2006, “stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking.” Whoops. But Mr. Osborne is now Britain’s top economic official.

And in his new position, he’s setting out to emulate the austerity policies Ireland implemented after its bubble burst. After all, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic spent much of the past year hailing Irish austerity as a resounding success. “The Irish approach worked in 1987-89 — and it’s working now,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute last June. Whoops, again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Racist Fucks

Starting this month, South Carolina will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War with a series of events that underscore this state’s central role in that titanic, tragic struggle.
. . .
Two of the first events scheduled to mark the anniversary – a privately sponsored secession ball Monday in Charleston and an effort to display the original Ordinance of Secession – show just how divisive the Civil War remains.

The ball, organized by the Confederate Heritage Trust and sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has been criticized as a celebration of treason and slavery.

“There does appear to be an effort to make this a festive occasion,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the NAACP’s S.C. Conference, which plans to protest the ball. “It’s more about celebration than history.”

At a subsequent press conference, Randolph was even more critical, saying, "We are not opposed to observances. We are opposed to disrespect. This is nothing more than a celebration of slavery."

The gala’s website says the president of the S.C. Senate, avid Civil War re-enactor Glenn McConnell, plans to attend.

Mark Simpson, the S.C. division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his organization condemns slavery and respects the NAACP’s right to protest.

“We could look back and say (the Civil War) wasn’t something to celebrate – about 620,000 died in the North and South,” Simpson said. “If you count civilians, you’re up to about a million killed in that war.

“Do we celebrate that? Heavens no,” he said. “War and death is never something to celebrate. But we do celebrate the courage and the integrity of 170 men who signed their signatures to the Article of Secession – the courage of men to do what they think is right.”
Do we celebrate the death and destruction caused by the civil war? Of course not.

We celebrate the courage it took to commit treason for the noble goal of preserving an economic order where white people could get rich from the free labor of black people they were allowed to own. What possible problems could anyone have with that?

Oh yeah, and and I love the article mentioning how "divisive the civil war remains". Really? Among those of us in the brain-having community, it's not divisive, it's pretty fucking clear what fighting for the confederacy meant, and it's not something that anyone should be proud of.

Over at Balloon Juice, there was a response that we know somewhere in China, JN would be proud of:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Evan Bayh: A Jackass Till The End

Evan Bayh is leaving the Senate they way he spent his years there, by skipping his actual job to talk about how awesome he is:
Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh will not return to Washington, D.C., for a key procedural vote on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in order to conduct a “farewell tour” of his state.
Good riddance, asshole.

Agent Zero Forever

While I had come to terms with the inivitibility of a Gilbert Arenas trade, that doesn't mean that it's easy to take.

He was probably my favorite Wizard/Bullet ever, and someone who I thought truly understood the meaning of sports. Lots of people hated him for that, and have for years built this myth that has successfully taken the fun out of these games that we know and love.

He's probably the most interesting person the NBA has produced in the last 20 years, and I sincerely hope the move makes him happy again. Watching this video makes me think it will.

Good luck Gil. If you go on to win a title with the Magic, no one would be happier.

Lindsey Graham Is Too Tired To Work

If you needed another reason to hate the Senate, Lindsey Graham took to the floor last night to complain about how he doesn't have time to do his job because he's too tired. (via dailykos)

In a just world he would lose his job over that clip.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DATD Repealed

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.
Kudos to everyone involved, the people organizng to get this repealed were relentless in overcoming the douchebaggery of the Senate.

Susan Collins' back and forth over how she would vote even though she kept publicly touting her support of the repeal was a perfect demonstration of just how broken the Senate is. In the end she was brought into line by another preening asshole by the name of Joe Lieberman, so it just proves you never know who's going to play the role of lead douche for each debate that comes up.

It's a shame that having gay soldiers will make our endless wars gay and less fun (whatever reason John McCain gave for opposing it) but I guess people like that will have stop getting us into so many pointless wars to make it even out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fox News Makes You Stupid

It's not new information, or shocking, but it's nice to have an academic study back it up:
The University of Maryland study, called "Misinformation and the 2010 Election," looked at "variations in misinformation by exposure to news sources," among other things, and specifically newspapers and news magazines (in print and online), network TV news broadcasts, NPR and PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:
  • Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • The economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Good Guy Gets In

This is welcome news:
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who lost his reelection bid last month in a Republican sweep of state offices, is the choice of Elizabeth Warren to lead enforcement operations at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The 51-year-old Democrat has a distinguished academic and political résumé. He took an aggressive stance in a lawsuit against Bank of America Corporation over its acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Company, claiming it misled investors over how well Merrill Lynch was doing financially.
. . .
The class-action lawsuit against Merrill was kindled because the firm paid out $3.6 billion in executive bonuses just before the purchase by Bank of America was completed in January 2009. It was soon announced that Merrill had lost $15 billion in the final quarter of 2008. In an interview about the suit, filed in September 2009, Cordray said, "The Wall Street executives here and the people running these companies, we believe, you know, engaged in greedy, shoddy, self-serving practices."
Anyone willing to take on the banks is a massive addition to this Administration, and it's absolutely no surprise that Elizabeth Warren is responsible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Person of the... what?

Time somewhat inexplicably today chose Mark Zuckerberg over Julian Assange for person of the year, despite the fact that Assange received more than twenty times the online votes (382,000 to 18,000), and Zuckerberg's main contribution to society (Facebook) did not take place in this year while Assange's (leaks leaks leaks!) most definitely did. I guess there was that tight movie about Zuckerberg this year, but other than that I just can't see the reasoning.

If anything, it is yet another reminder of how Time has fully committed to its new mission as a magazine for children:

TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults

Meanwhile, the US Air Force has entirely prohibited its members from accessing any content on sites that posted wikileaks cables, including the New York Times, the Guardian, der Spiegel, El País, and Le Monde. HOLY LIVING CRAP THAT'S CRAZY.

Using the Power of the Presidency

If there's anyone that's been frozen out by this Administration over the last two years, it's CEOs:
WASHINGTON — Hiring is anemic but corporate profits are up, and President Barack Obama is having 20 CEOs over to talk about how to tap that cash to boost jobs.

But don't count on the president to reprise the "fat cat" scolding he gave bankers a year ago. No, this is not a woodshed moment.

For Obama and the business sector, Wednesday's meeting is a wary embrace.

With new tax and trade deals as enticements, Obama is taking yet another step toward the political middle as he moves to confront a still-weak economic recovery and the capital's new political alignment.

Both sides come to Wednesday's session with their respective wishes: Obama wants the private sector to use its record profits to increase employment; executives want the administration to ease regulations they perceive as onerous.

Since the election, Obama has been holding private meetings with individual executives to discuss potential job growth strategies. But the higher-profile meeting Wednesday also serves a larger public relations purpose: It shifts attention from past confrontation to rolled-up-sleeves cooperation.
What exactly does the Administration think having Obama publicly blow these Captains of Industry will accomplish?

Isn't there something more important we could have a "summit" about, you know like our 9.8% unemployment rate or the always rising rate of forclosuses?

What the fuck is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan"

This is something out of a movie:
WASHINGTON — Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died Monday, the State Department said. He was 69.
. . .
As Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon, family members said: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Common Fucking Sense

Why not do things that are smart AND popular?
More than 70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

An additional one in six favors slapping a 50 percent tax on bonuses exceeding $400,000. Just 7 percent of U.S. adults say bonuses are an appropriate incentive reflecting Wall Street’s return to financial health.

A large majority also want to tax Wall Street profits to reduce the federal budget deficit. A levy on financial services firms is the top choice among more than a dozen deficit-cutting options presented to respondents.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.8 percent, resentment of bonuses and banking profits unites Americans across political, gender, age and income groups. Among Republicans, who generally are skeptical of business regulation, 76 percent support a government ban on big bonuses to bailout recipients, that’s higher than backing among Democrats or independents.
There is no downside.


Not Holding

Apparently. (Via TBD)

And the Caps lost 7-0 to the Rangers. Not good times for DC sports.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Now Larry Summers Wants More Stimulus...

Hey, guess who has advice?
A White House warning to Congressional Democrats today: If you block enactment of President Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans, you might trigger a double-dip recession.

"If they don't pass this bill in the next couple of weeks," said White House economic adviser Larry Summers, "it would materially increase the risk the economy would stall out and we would have a double dip."

Did Summers really mean what he just said, asked reporters?

"It would significantly increase the risk," Summers repeated.
Larry Summers, the man who wouldn't even let Obama see the proposal for a larger stimulus because he didn't think it would be nessicary, is now making threats about something that could very well happen anyway thanks to a decision that he made.

You really can't make this stuff up.

In fairness, if there's anyone who knows destroying an economy... it's Larry Summers.

Dance Break

From Brad at the awesome site Fire Megan McArdle:

That is all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Train of Thought Lounge–Gareth Emery vs. Markus Schulz–“Not the Same Citadel” (AVB Mashup)

Greetings Friends.  This week’s Lounge selection is dedicated to everyone grinding it out before the holidays.  In particular, I know how hard both the editors and friends of the blog have been working.  I offer this song as a 5 minute sanctuary, where you can let all your worries go.

Just sit back and enjoy the beats, and lounge out. Try not to think about the latest tax deal, or  Fat Albert’s suspension.  And just plain forget about the not-so-sad news of the closing of a local beer institution ( Eds. Note: Lets face it; when was the last time you got your first, second, or even 4th choice of brew there? )

Usually I hate mashups; they are very hard to do well, and most of the time DJ’s take 2 pretty good tracks and then combine them to make utter crap.  Most mash-ups just plain butcher the instrumentals by cutting up the arrangement and adding worthless bass loops and synth pops, while tacking on a completely out-of-place vocal just for the sake of it.

This track is different. It takes Gareth Emery’s moving “Citadel” instrumental and leaves it largely untouched, and gracefully adds only the essential, soft vocals as a compliment to the organization.  Part of what makes the track interesting is the that original source of the vocals - Markus Schulz feat. Jennifer Renee’s “Not the Same”, is actually quite underwhelming. 

Count this one as my December Fight Song:

Sanctimonious Assholes

This section of Obama's remarks deserves mention:
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats have been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.
Just to be clear, he's saying that people who oppose this deal aren't looking out for the best interests of this country because they'd be opposing the unemployment benefits extension. He somehow says this with a straight face because the 99ers (the long term unemployed) were inexplicably left them out of Obama's awesome tax cut compromise. Tough shit guys! This was the only deal he could get and if you oppose the deal then you're against helping the special group of unemployed people that Obama chose to help, you know, not the group of unemployed people he just told to eat shit.

Everybody got that? Ok, good.

I think the most absurd part of Obama's argument (other than berating progressives about how good they've had it with an Administration that shits on them for sport) is that we're supposed to trust him that he got the best deal.

What part of him signaling his willingness to cave for the last TWO MONTHS could possibly tell us that he wasn't trying his hardest? Or maybe it was his former budget director (and soon to be Citigroup employee) Peter Orzag writing an Op-ED in the New York times advocating for something very close to the deal  THREE MONTHS ago.

It honestly doesn't matter whether this was their plan all along or if they are completely baffled by the foreign and confusing process known as "negotiation".

They really, really, really fucked this up. That's the bottom line.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Great Cave

To nobody's surprise, it happened:
President Obama and congressional Republicans have reached a tentative accord on a far-reaching economic package that would preserve George W. Bush administration tax breaks for families at all income levels for two years, extend emergency jobless benefits through 2011 and cut payroll taxes by 2 percent for every American worker through the end of next year.

The scope of the agreement, announced by the White House late Monday, was far broader than lawmakers in either party had been expecting. The deal would extend a college tuition tax credit and other breaks for middle-class families that were due to expire New Year's Eve. And it would revive the inheritance tax after a year-long lapse, imposing a 35 percent rate on estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.
Obama embraces conservative position X, berates liberals for not also embracing conservative policiy X. This happens all the time, but the reaction this time feels pretty different:
WASHINGTON -- Despite his protestations at Tuesday's press conference that he had no choice, President Obama's concession to Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy appears to have sent many of his historically most fervent supporters to new levels of despair.

The president's refusal to fight harder against the massive giveaway to people who need it the least has disheartened not only activists, former Obama advisers and members of Congress, but his grassroots.
I was in the car a lot today and was listening to a lot of news coverage, and the liberal backlash was a lead story on most of the main outlets. I gotta say I think it's the first time I can ever remember hearing mainstream media outlets discussing progressives in a positive frame.

It's amazing what standing up for your beliefs will do.

Strange fucking times.

Taxed To Death!!1!

Or like every other meaningless teabagger slogan... not at all the case.

Felix Salmon:

  • Federal taxes are the lowest in 60 years, which gives you a pretty good idea of why America’s long-term debt ratios are a big problem. If the taxes reverted to somewhere near their historical mean, the problem would be solved at a stroke.
  • Income taxes, in particular, both personal and corporate, are low and falling. That trend is not sustainable.
  • Employment taxes, by contrast—the regressive bit of the fiscal structure—are bearing a large and increasing share of the brunt. Any time that somebody starts complaining about how the poor don’t pay income tax, point them to this chart. Income taxes are just one part of the pie, and everybody with a job pays employment taxes.
  • There aren’t any wealth taxes, but the closest thing we’ve got—estate and gift taxes—have shrunk to zero, after contributing a non-negligible amount to the public fisc in earlier decades.
Gotta love that spec of light blue BIG GOVERNMENT *fartz* forcing all those poor corporations to go galt and captain their industries in other countries.

The tax structure in this country is fucking insane, and nothing you hear about it in the media is true.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How About A Free Trade Agreement?

The triangulation continues: (via firedoglake's great coverage of this issue)
The Obama administration has announced that it intends to finalize a new free trade agreement with South Korea (KORUS FTA) in time for the next G-20 summit in November.  Although the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projects this will have a small positive impact on the U.S. trade balance, and “minimal or negligible “ impact on U.S. employment,  history  shows that such trade deals lead to rapidly growing trade deficits and job loss in the United States.

The Charts below compare USITC’s estimates of the impact of the forthcoming free trade agreement with Korea to EPI’s own calculation. Unlike USITC’s forecast of a small positive impact, EPI’s research shows it will increase the U.S. trade deficit with Korea by about $16.7 billion, and displace about 159,000 American jobs within the first seven years after it takes effect.

In fairness, other than a few weak worded and uncomfortable statements about trade in Ohio during the primary, it was always clear that Obama was fine with continuing our failed NAFTA model trade agreements.

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has a good statement on the issue:
The Korea free trade agreement (FTA) did not have to instigate what will now be a nasty political battle. It could have provided the perfect platform to implement President Barack Obama’s promised trade policy reforms to remove the worst job-killing aspects of former President George W. Bush’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style deal and rebuild bipartisan support for trade expansion. Within weeks of Obama’s June announcement about moving forward with the Korea deal, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama warning that they would oppose the pact in its current form – noting that moving forward with “another job-killing FTA” was “unthinkable” in the current economic climate. They laid out essential reforms needed to the pact’s labor rights, foreign investor offshoring promotion and financial deregulation terms needed for them to support the deal.

Labor unions and consumer and environmental groups also quickly reiterated their calls for the administration to fix the Bush Korea text by removing the worst NAFTA-style terms so that it could become the first in a new era of widely supported trade deals. In September, Obama received a letter signed by more than 550 faith, family farm, environmental, labor, manufacturing, consumer protection and civil society organizations calling for the same core reforms and noting that they could not support the deal in its current form.

The current text includes the extraordinary investor rights that promote offshoring and expose domestic financial, environmental and health laws to attack in foreign tribunals. Signed before the financial crisis, the pact calls for financial services deregulation that is at odds with the lessons we’ve learned from the economic crisis and that may conflict with recent reforms made by both the U.S. and Korea. The pact also explicitly forbids reference to the International Labor Organization’s conventions that establish internationally recognized core labor standards.
Unfortunately the fix that related to cars caused the UAW to betray their union brothers and sisters by supporting the agreement. This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons (detailed here by Marcy Wheeler), but it's unfortuate because it gives the dreaded "liberal cover" for spineless politicians to hide behind.

The silence from others in the Labor movement is deafening. They must come out in opposition to this deal now, and show that you can't just pass another extremely unpopular "free trade" deal without a fight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reason For Concern

I'm really not trying to be constantly angry and negative about everything, but Obama's cave on the millionaire tax cuts is a sign about a lot more than this one issue.

He has massive public backing on this, the Republicans are scared of it (Boehner already caved once), it was a campaign promise, and the Senate and House Democrats are willing to fight.

If Obama won't fight on this... it's hard to see him fighting on anything.

And that is obviously pretty worrisome, and doesn't bode well for the next 2 years.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cutting Out The Middle Man

Not satisfied just writing op-eds in defending millionaire tax cuts, former Obama Administration budget director Peter Orzag is going for the real thing:
Citigroup Inc., recovering from its $45 billion bailout in 2008, is in advanced talks to hire former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Orszag, 41, may take a job in the New York-based firm’s investment-banking division, the people said, declining to be identified because the discussions are private. An announcement may come as early as today, one of the people said.

Orszag, an economist trained at Princeton University and the London School of Economics, helped shape U.S. economic stimulus during the financial crisis and overhaul the health- care system. The youngest member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, he spent 18 months as White House budget director, stepping down in July.

He has since become a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing columnist for the New York Times, writing about health care, budget policy and Social Security. His successor as budget director, Jacob Lew, worked at Citigroup from 2006 to 2009.
White House to Citigroup, Citigroup to the White House, all with billions of dollars of bailouts exchanging hands in between.

You know how that old saying goes: "If you can't pretend you're trying to beat them while actually carrying their water, join them".

Finding New Lows

Democrats in the White House, Senate and House all say they want to extend the Bush Tax cuts, but only for the middle class. How did the house respond?
Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.

Democrats were not united on the issue. Twenty voted with Republicans to kill the tax cut bill, as they hold out for extending additional cuts to wealthy Americans -- though 3 Republicans, including Reps. Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) voted for the tax cut extensions. However the outcome will (and was designed to) allow Democrats to draw distinctions between themselves and Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.
Wow, that's impressive. They took a played hardball and won. But what about the Senate? They're never willing to take a tough line with Republicans:
Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the House's just-passed middle-income tax cut bill and a second package to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a new, $1 million tax bracket, according to a Democratic aide.
Holy shit. So even the Senate is willing to actually make the Republicans take an unpopular vote!

So how does Barack Obama respond? We all hoped that he would use his power as president to advocate for this position, and even though he's refused, it seems to be happening without him. His official response:
The President continues to believe that extending middle class tax cuts is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now and he applauds the House for passing a permanent extension. But, because Republicans have made it clear that they won’t pass a middle class extension without also extending tax cuts for the wealthy, the President has asked Director Lew and Secretary Geithner to work with Congress to find a way forward. Those discussions started just yesterday and are continuing this afternoon. The talks are ongoing and productive, but any reports that we are near a deal in the tax cuts negotiations are inaccurate and premature.

Both the House and Senate(!!!) want to take a hard line and not only will Obama not join the fight, but he's actively working to undermine their efforts.

There's been a debate going on among progressives (discussed in this clip) about whether Obama is a conservative who wants conservative policy passed (and a very good liar), or is just blindingly incompetent at trying to pass the Democratic agenda. It's becoming increasing difficult to believe it's the latter, and that's something we're going to have to come to terms with going forward.

What I do know is that this is a hell of a way to cap off a really fucking depressing week.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Tax On Wall Street

I love it when Republicans accidentally tell the truth:
Yesterday, however, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) undermined the credibility of his party's claims. While speaking on the Senate floor, Alexander said that even though he opposes the proposal, he was "delighted" by Schumer's willingness to target his own constituents for tax increases. "Most of the people whose taxes he's trying to raise live in New York," he said. "I mean, they're not in Tennessee. We're a relatively low income state." Joking that Schumer's plan basically amounts to a "tax earmark," Alexander argued that it would "raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street in New York."
ALEXANDER: I'm delighted to hear the eloquence of the Senator from New York. And as I was listening to him I was reminded that the people — most of the people whose taxes he is trying to raise live in New York. I mean they're not in Tennessee, we're a relatively low income state. So I admire him for his courage on — that's almost a tax earmark, you know, to — to be so specific that we're gonna raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street in New York.
But I thought letting the Bush Tax cuts expire was a tax increase for everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rep. Steve King is a Racist

Usually these guys try to cover it up a bit more than this...
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who's been one of the most vocal opponents of the Pigford settlement for black farmers, has taken to cable news and the floor of the House to speak against the settlement. King's argument is that the bulk of the Pigford II claims are fraudulent because there are fewer black farmers than claimants -- a flimsy argument when you consider that many African-Americans lost their farms over the past few decades due, in part, to USDA discrimination that denied them loans -- which is the point of the settlement program.

On Monday night, he suggested that President Obama, as a senator, may have been prejudiced to help the black farmers.

"Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president, and what does he do?" King said. "He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim."

He then said the claims -- which stem from discrimination against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s -- are "slavery reparations."

"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,'" he said. "That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.
So... yeah.

As Chad Ochocinco said about Colin Cowherd, next time he should just say "I really don't like that black guy".

Triangulation City

When Obama's campaign arm sends an email out telling his supporters to write Op-Eds defending his federal pay freeze, we have reached the destination: (via dday)
A decade of irresponsible spending led to a projected $1.3 trillion deficit that President Obama inherited upon taking office — putting America on an unsustainable fiscal course.

From Day One, this administration’s top focus has been growing the economy and putting Americans back to work — and that will never change.

The economy is growing again, yet all across America families and businesses have been tightening their belts. The President knows their government must do the same.

Yesterday, he announced a proposal to freeze pay for non-military federal employees for two years — a plan that will lead to $60 billion in savings over 10 years. It’s one of many tough choices the President has made to cut costs in the upcoming budget to begin to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. And it follows directly from this administration’s dedication to stretching federal dollars and reining in the long-term deficit.

Now, if you listen to some talk radio hosts or a few of the talking heads on cable news, you’ll hear a very different assessment of our fiscal policies. These voices ignore the irresponsibility of the past while pinning the blame for “reckless spending” solely on this administration. It would make a good fairy tale if it weren’t so dangerously untrue.

But these voices — as loud as they are — are spreading bunk. Cutting costs and spending responsibly has been a cornerstone of this administration’s record. And we need your help to get the truth out there.

Will you take a few minutes and write a letter to the editor today to set the record straight?
I've set the record straight the only way I can, by unsubscribing, and I doubt I'm the only one.