Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from President Bush

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays.

Okay, time to put this blog to bed, probably through the weekend. I hope everyone reading this is having a good holiday. I'm going to play Mario Kart now and then go see my family. See you next week!

Reader's Choice #4: Our Fancy New Depression

Blog reader 'fannyanns' wants me to write about the "economic meltdown... cause what are the long-term consequences? and the like? can Obama turn it around? and is there going to be more stimulus?"

Ohh there will be plenty of stimulus... though not in the mail-everyone-a-check-and-call-it-a-day George W. Bush way. But I'll get to that in a minute.

The long-term consequences, of course, are further economic collapse, more job loss, and the increasingly likelihood of the dreaded "D"-word being thrown around. But that's still a hypothetical. I'm more interested in what is knowable... namely, how did we get here?

I've written quite a few posts in the past few weeks that have touched on how deregulated, anything-goes, top-down Reaganomics nearly killed the thing it was created to worship: capitalism. But it's more than that. The larger problem is so much of what we, as a nation, do now is focused on short-term gains at the expense of long-term protection (that's been true of our foreign policy too... just ask Reagan's allies of convenience, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein). Bush's tax cuts? Like a microwave burrito, it tastes great going in, but leaves a bit of a mess behind. Cheap gas and big cars? Fun for now, but ignores our long-term energy needs. Taking $$$ from the education budget, Social Security pool, etc, helped free up cash for other fun things (like missile shields!), but creates headaches we will complain about in a few years as if we have no idea of their making. And, of course, Bush's "ownership society"-- the domestic center of his 2004 GOP convention reelection speech-- was just another name for the giant Jenga mortage ponzi scheme we've seen come crashing down on everything the past year and change. Etc.

As has been said so many times, we used to be a country that made things, sacrificed, and worked for common goals. Now we settle for canonizing the 'greatest generation' while decrying anyone who seeks to recreate the economic policies of that era a 'socialist'.

So how can Barack Obama fix this mess? Well, if he has secret magic powers, that will help. But I will settle for hoping that he keeps his eye on the long-term, even if at the cost of short-term gratification. John F. Kennedy said of the goals he laid out in his inaugural address, "all this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1000 days, nor in the life of this administration, nor perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin." He spoke later that year of making plans to put a man on the moon. And it happened. It took eight years (and Kennedy had been dead for five of those), but it happened. Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935. The first check wasn't mailed out until 1940. It's about planning for years down the road, not just about the now. This is the kind of leadership we need of Obama.

Here is an early preview of what Obama is thinking in terms of initial stimulus-
President-elect Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years...

...Obama's plan would feature spending on roads and other infrastructure projects, making government buildings energy-efficient, building and renovating schools and adopting environmentally friendly technologies.

There also would be some form of tax relief, according to the Obama team, which is aware of the political difficulty of pushing such a large package through Congress, even in a time of recession. Any tax cuts would be aimed at middle- and lower-income taxpayers, and aides have said there would be no tax increases for wealthy Americans...

...In addition to spending on roads, bridges and similar construction projects, Obama is expected to seek additional funds for numerous programs that experience increased demand when joblessness rises, one Democratic official said.

Among those programs are food stamps and other nutrition programs, health insurance, unemployment insurance and job training programs.

Now doesn't this sound better than just writing everyone a check, and hoping for the best?

Yes, it will cost money. Lots of it. But a fixed economy will pay back these costs quickly enough, and unlike Bush's free-money giveaways, this is actually going to tangible things. And, yes, these measures alone won't fix all the economic problems. We'll need better leadership at every level-- federal, state, and local governments; business leaders; etc-- and commitment to seeing these things through. But, for now, it seems like a good start.

[Related listening: Will Federal Money Mean Economic Recovery? (KCRW's 'To The Point')]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reality Has a Well-Known Liberal Bias

Time magazine's Michael Scherer has a new blog post up-- 'Dark Days Ahead: Why Republicans Need Xmas Vacation'-- of the now-ubiquitous 'the GOP is an outdated party without ideas that speak to modern realities' nature. It notes, correctly, that the current economic crisis is making it harder for the free-market cheerleaders to sell their wares. As Paul Krugman said to Bill Maher a few months ago, "There are no atheists in foxholes and there are no libertarians in financial crises."

He looks at the changing political landscape, and the different ways the two parties have responded to the crisis, and concludes, in what would make the GOP proud... Eh, fuck it, they should just try to market themselves better. He discusses a strategist who says that "Republicans... should claim the mantle of innovative government, not just small government." Yes, their style of governing has been very innovative.

But here to me was the more news-worthy part of his post-
With his own Rolodex under strain, House Majority Leader John Boehner has put out a public call for any economist who can give some rationale for opposing the Obama stimulus package. The response is so far less than impressive. At best, conservatives have retrenched to argue that the stimulus should focus more on tax cuts then spending. [BLUEDUCK'S NOTE: Tax cuts! Genius! Why didn't anyone think of that before!] There is a highly technical debate going on between economists about why spending on public works should provide more stimulation than tax cuts for business and the wealthy. (In the classic textbooks, at least, the spending argument beats the tax cut argument.) It does not help the conservatives that their principal academic reference point to argue for tax cuts is a controversial interpretation of a paper written by Christina Romer, the expert on depression economics who is helping to draft Obama's spend-heavy stimulus plan.

Yep, that's GOP leadership in a nutshell: "My blind ideology tells me I am against this. Now I just need to find someone, anyone, to tell me why."

He then notes that the likely response to this dangerous dose of reality will be for Republicans to "retrench to a guerrilla war, a tactical battle much like the one adopted by McCain at the end of the general election." And that worked out excellently for everyone.

The Saga of the Invisible Hand, Continued...

Rachel Maddow had a great segment last night that not only encapsulated the disparity between how the rich banks applying for federal $$$ get treated versus how the average working Joe gets treated when he needs a little bit of help... but it also shows you what a huge scam the bailout process actually is.

Remember what went wrong here. It's a) all the unions' fault, b) regulation sucks, c) mentioning how tilted the economic scales are = class warfare, and d) Obama is a socialist. That's what Rush Limbaugh told me anyway.

[PS- Some required bailout reading, all of which I've posted before... here, here, and here.]

A New Era

So it is with great sadness that I retire this banner...

...And replace it with this one-

I, for one, welcome our new Obama overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted internet personality I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Odds and Ends

Yay! A short week! Presents! Yay! But first, here's a few odds and ends-

This just in... Vice President Cheney is a monster. That is all.

Free-market capitalism at work: "[A]fter receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it... The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers."

Here's where some of it went, though... executive bonuses! This is all the union's fault!!

CA's Attorney General urges the repeal of Proposition 8. Meanwhile, its supporters ask the state Supreme Court "to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative." Christ would approve!

President Bush's new presidential portrait is disturbing.

Finally, in true political form, Howard Dean is proven right by history, but shafted anyway.

Quote of the Day

"Only [when he is actually President] will we know whether Obama's embrace of every establishment and even right-wing figure he can find is a reflection of what the substance of his governing will be, or whether -- as many of his supporters claim -- it's a master strategy designed to diffuse tension and hostility in order to enable easier enactment of his progressive agenda. If Obama devotes genuine efforts to repealing DOMA and don't-ask-don't-tell, I doubt anyone will care how many times he hugs Rick Warren -- just as if Obama really closes Guantanamo, withdraws from Iraq and forges a diplomatic peace with Iran, few people will care how much he embraces Joe Lieberman -- though obviously those are very, very large 'ifs.' Only time will tell."
--Glenn Greenwald, on the debate around the new politics of Barack Obama.