Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pass the frakin’ health care bill already!

A set of heavy-hitter economists who disagree about secondary matters on the health care bill are nevertheless unanimous. They want the health care bill passed, they want it passed by majority vote (i.e., by the reconciliation process) and they want it passed now!!! Jes' git 'er done fer gawsh sakes!

The above-cited piece is also a very welcome sight to see because the economists grasp what misses so many media people, that Republicans simply don't support doing anything. This was a very clear lesson from the Blair House meeting. It's not at all surprising that Rupert Murdoch properties like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal were oblivious to that message, but it's irritating to see CNN be so clueless and unhelpful to their readers and viewers. Not surprisingly, right-wing blogger Jonah Goldberg complained about President Obama getting visibly tired and snappish towards what Goldberg hears described as mere "talking points," but it's interesting that Goldberg never describes what these "talking points" were. My suspicion  is that the "Let's start over with a blank sheet of paper" one was one that particularly irritated Obama.

Update: A new poll shows that a problem that was apparent during Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign for President is still very much with us. The Republican budget-cutters say the Federal Budget is too large and must be cut. "Okay, what precisely do ya wanna cut?" "Um, well, erm, uh, something!" Foreign aid, a perennial favorite, still makes up less than 1% of the budget and goes very heavily towards Israel (And Egypt, which in turn serves Israeli interests) anyway, Welfare (Which Clinton cut very heavily) and interestingly, the "War on Terror," which I guess is seen as a way to pay off foreign countries. Nothing else comes in at over 10% approval.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defend the stimulus!

Seriously, Rachel Maddow is doing a great job attacking Republican hypocrisy for on the one hand, attacking last February's stimulus as ineffective and, on the other hand, trying to get more stimulus money for their states. But the Democratic Party has to do its part.  The Democratic Party, the President and all of the Senators and Representatives, have to strongly and forthrightly, without apology, defend the stimulus. The can't go scrambling around trying to find a different name for the successful bill (Naming it the "jobs" bill as opposed to just saying "stimilus II"). The ONLY reason that the word "stimulus" is unpopular is because of Republican propaganda, period! We need pushback, not retreat!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interesting view on cause of housing crisis

Interesting piece traces the housing crisis to Goldman Sachs, the corporation that profited so handsomely from the TARP bailout (The CEO of Goldman Sachs ran off with a $9 million bonus for all his "savvy" banking "skills").
Perhaps the Goldman gang's best claim to savvy was in buying up hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgages and packaging them into mortgage backed securities, and more complex derivative instruments, and selling them all over the world. Blankfein and Goldman earned tens of billions of dollars on these deals. The great trick was that many of the loans put into these securities were issued by banks filling in phony information so that borrowers could get loans that they would not be able to repay. But this was not Goldman's concern. They made money on the packaging and the selling of the securities.


This triumvirate somehow managed to convince Congress that we would have a second Great Depression if it didn't cough up the money [$700 billion] immediately with no conditions [Paulson's famous one-page proposal]. At that point Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and most of the other major banks were staring at bankruptcy. While this cascade of bank failures would have been bad news for the economy, there was no plausible scenario in which it would have led to a second Great Depression.

Oh, and Goldman Sachs also apparently hacked an online poll asking if perhaps the country shouldn't charge a $0.05 tax on financial transactions. Goldman Sachs declared that they were shocked, shocked I tell you, and that "Yeah, I think they're going to join O.J. Simpson in looking for the perpetrators!"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hysteria over the deficit

To me — and I’m not alone in this — the sudden outbreak of deficit hysteria brings back memories of the groupthink that took hold during the run-up to the Iraq war. Now, as then, dubious allegations, not backed by hard evidence, are being reported as if they have been established beyond a shadow of a doubt. Now, as then, much of the political and media establishments have bought into the notion that we must take drastic action quickly, even though there hasn’t been any new information to justify this sudden urgency. Now, as then, those who challenge the prevailing narrative, no matter how strong their case and no matter how solid their background, are being marginalized.

Paul Krugman - Fiscal Scare Tactics

Oh, and here's a good piece on how the housing bubble got started in the first place.  Right-wingers are not wrong to say that Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac and other liberal institutions are part of the problem that led to the bubble, but they're wrong to say that they're the only reasons. The bubble was a broad-based one that had more complex causes.

Update: What are the real problems that America should be working on?  Excellent column by Bob Herbert of the NY Times:
We don’t hear a lot that is serious about the sorry state of the nation’s infrastructure or the trade policies that crippled so many American industries or our inability (or unwillingness) to compete effectively with China when it comes to the new world of energy for the 21st century or our abject failure to provide a quality public education for the next generation of American workers, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs.

Much more at the link.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A proposal concerning spending

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pointed out that President Barack Obama's plan for freezing spending in certain categories improperly exempts all of the militarism budget from any cuts whatsoever. I mean, seriously now, does any sentient human being truly believe that all of the $549 billion the military intends to spend during 2011 is justified? That absolutely none of that is waste? The first two paragraphs of a July 2009 Wall Street Journal story tell a disturbing tale:

When John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he was flying an A4 Skyhawk. That jet cost $860,000.

Inflation has risen by 700% since then. So Mr. McCain's A4 cost $6.1 million in 2008 dollars. Applying a generous factor of three for technological improvements, the price for a 2008 Navy F18 fighter should be about $18 million. Instead, we are paying about $90 million for each new fighter. As a result, the Navy cannot buy sufficient numbers. This is disarmament without a treaty.

Probably the most egregiously wasteful program in the entire Pentagon is Missile Defense. In October 2006, the INS (Israeli Naval Ship) Hanit was hit by missile supplied by Iran and fired by Hezbollah. Even if the ship had been taken completely by surprise, it was an extremely advanced warship with an allegedly working missile-defense system. The system, in a real-time surprise problem, was useless in protecting the Israeli ship.

On 9/11, the Pentagon was protected by a missile defense system that cost $130 billion and was allegedly capable of shooting down a missile about the size of an oil drum traveling at over 6000 mph. It was defeated by a Boeing 757 (Wingspan: 124 ft, height: 44 ft, length: 178 ft) traveling at about 600 mph. The failure of that system was so blatant, the article I've linked to makes the case for a conspiracy, usually called a "911Truth" theory.

The Clinton Administration tested a missile defense system five times, finally saying the heck with it, "when the 'bullet' and booster rocket stages didn't separate."

In December 2004,

Pentagon officials could not immediately explain the reason for the failure. They said some kind of anomaly prompted the automatic shutdown of the launch sequence just 23 seconds before the interceptor was due to take off from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Plans had called for the interceptor to soar into space and knock down a mock warhead fired from Kodiak Island in Alaska about 16 minutes earlier.

And very sensibly, President Obama had to choose between a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic versus a better relationship with Russia, which was getting agitated at the potentially-aggressive system being based so close to their border.

It's long past time America came to its senses and canceled this complete and utter waste of money. There are many other programs equally deserving of cancellation, but this program would be a very good place to start economizing.