So Much for Republican Bipartisanship

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Jan 262009

That didn’t take long. John McCain is on TV this weekend saying he won’t vote for the stimulus package. Other leading Republicans are complaining about the package not having enough tax cuts…blah, blah, blah. Of course they’re also on all the Sunday morning talk shows complaining about the dangers of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, and prattling on with the lies about all the released prisoners “returning” to the battlefield.

I’ve checked, and not single Republican in either house of Congress has a Nobel Prize in Economics, but Paul Krugman does, and he seems to know his way around an economy. In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Krugman talks about the Republicans taking “obvious cheap shots:”

John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services — and called it a plan to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.”

Krugman goes after the on-going Republican argument against government spending and for tax cuts about how people are better at judging at how they spend their money than the government.

The point is that nobody really believes that a dollar of tax cuts is always better than a dollar of public spending. Meanwhile, it’s clear that when it comes to economic stimulus, public spending provides much more bang for the buck than tax cuts — and therefore costs less per job created (see the previous fraudulent argument) — because a large fraction of any tax cut will simply be saved.

And let us not forget that the Republicans were all in favor of the Wall Street bailout plan (TARP). I find it interesting how that stimulus package was so acceptable without tax cuts, but this plan, which helps average Americans get jobs, just won’t work.

Boehner was on the Meet The Press Sunday railing about dubious statistic of 61 of the released Gitmo detainees being back on the “battlefield.” Well, first, it should surprise no one if we snatch someone for no good reason, torture them and hold them illegally for 5 or more years, and then that person goes back and decides he hates enough to join the fight. However a study published by Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux on Jan. 15 finds the Pentagon wrongly altered its figures on terrorist ‘recidivism’ 43 times, with the latest figure being “the most egregiously so.”

The Republicans seem to have always thought that bipartisanship means that everyone must agree with them. For some reason, the spineless Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have gone along with the bullies, thinking somehow the Repubs won’t be so mean to them, if they just give them everything they want.

I’m hoping that Obama is going to demand that Pelosi and Reid grow a spine. It sounds like maybe he has one. It’s been reported that Obama, during a White House meeting with Congressional leaders last week, said matter of factly, “I won.” That pretty much sums it up, and it is a message the Republicans need to understand, and Democrats need to use. Obama just needs to move his plan forward, and then let the Republicans vote against it, then go to the airwaves and exploit his 68% approval rating and tell the American people he’s doing all he can, but we’ll have to help him move some Congressional Republicans along.

Just So You Know-I Brought Down Wall Street

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Sep 292008

Why am I not surprised to learn that the krazy kristian kooks are now blaming gay people for the financial crisis affecting America. Never mind that their usual rant is that Gay’s don’t need job protections because we have all the disposable income. We used it, I guess, to wreck havoc in the world financial markets.

In a September 25th blog post titled ‘The Nation Will Right Itself If It Fixes Sex’, Christian Civil League of Maine Executive Director Michael Heath writes that the financial crisis currently facing Wall Street is the result of America’s sexual culture, including the acceptance of gay unions.

“Our crisis is a symptom, not the cause,” writes Heath. “I am not saying I know whether this financial crisis is God’s judgment or not. It is not for me to know that definitively.”

Heath lists policy changes that would make God “crack a smile,” including: End abortion rights and defund non-profit groups supporting it, amend state constitutions to ban gay marriage and eliminate domestic partnerships and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and end discrimination against private religious schools and homeschools.

And just so you can’t say that it’s just one kkk, we have others. Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian at the National Review’s website suggests Washington Mutual failed because it was too accommodating to minorities, including gays, African-Americans and Hispanics.

In a post titled ‘Cause and Effect?’, Krikorian writes, “I really thought this was a joke, but it’s not. WaMu’s final press release, before it sank beneath the waves.” The press release lists the general accomplishments of WaMu in diversifying its workforce, including earning a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. The release adds, “Diversity is an integral part of cultivating a welcoming, innovative and dynamic workplace here at WaMu. We are proud to be recognized for the opportunities and benefits we offer to all our employees, including the specific efforts we have made to engage Hispanics and the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] community.”

The krazy kristian kooks dispute the Kinsey study findings that approximately 10% of the population is gay, yet they still assign to us enough power to bring down the entire world economy, and exercise complete control over the U.S. Government. WOW! Who knew I had that much power. Now maybe you’ll all start being a little nicer to your gay friends.

I try to make lite of this, and just laugh at these people, but the unmitigated hate they spew is really frightening…and to do it under the color of Christianity. Surely God weeps.

Canned Goods and Ammo

 Business, Congress, Featured, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Canned Goods and Ammo
Sep 292008

I’ve been joking with a co-worker this afternoon that, given what happened today with the economic bailout package, and Wall Street’s reaction, we need to get to the grocery store to buy canned goods and ammo. Unfortunately, that may not be too far from reality. Most of the Republicans, and enough Democrats voted against the bail out plan that it failed and the Dow Jones Industrial Average nose-dived over 777 points. That’s the largest one day drop ever.

So what will happen next? I’m not sure, but this can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting in a downward spiral. The Asian and European markets will most likely have huge drops over night, which could result in even more declines on Wall Street tomorrow when trading resumes. I’m sure the pundits and reporters, along with the analysts, are all wringing their hands and predicting the end of the world as we know it, and that could cause just that result as confidence tumbles.

I’ve been getting emails from some outfit called True Majority. They’ve been stirring the pot, along with other organizations, to get people to contact their representatives and oppose the bailout. They think this a good thing, and that now Congress can fix things by:

  • Putting real regulations back on runaway financial corporations, and taking an ownership stake in exchange for any taxpayer support
  • Providing mortgage relief so ordinary Americans stop losing their homes
  • Putting millions to work by investing in new green jobs and infrastructure
  • Investing in a health care plan to cover everyone

These are all certainly noble goals, and the whole Reaganomics idea that wealth trickles down has never worked. The wealthy get more wealthy only when the economy is producing jobs, and people have money to spend. This enriches those that own the means of production and the raw materials. Reaganomics shuts down the creation of additional wealth, and all the Bush Administration and the Republicans have done is enable a transfer of the existing wealth to a select few of their friends. Now it’s all been accumulated, and no additional wealth is being created.

The bullets above, published by this True Majority outfit, will result in the creation of new and additional wealth, and everyone can participate, so it’s a good thing, but these are long term fixes. If the economy completely crashes, none of the shit above means anything, as there won’t be the resources to accomplish it. Continue reading »

The Economic Crisis

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Sep 262008

I know you can hardly wait for my take on the current economic crisis. I’ll be the first to admit, that like John McCain has said, I’m no expert on the economy. Certainly there are a lot of “financial products” out there I don’t have a clue about, but there are some things about the market and the politics around it I do understand.

Some are concerned there’s no real emergency. I can certainly see how one can come to that conclusion. The Bush administration has used this “emergency” concept once too often. As Bush himself famously said, “fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” Some people believe this may be just a gimmick to get a huge chunk for one last parting gift for Dick Cheney’s buddies. This is not out of the question from this administration.

Others believe the government should do nothing, and let the free market take care of itself. This comes from some well respected economists, and I can see their point. I’ve written some on the idea of the “free markets” in this previous post. One economist I listened to this morning on NPR was pointing out that Warren Buffet (no dummy when it comes to economic decisions) had already seen an opportunity and seized on it, and that a buyer had come forward for Washington Mutual (WaMu) in fairly short order. In other words, where there are gaps, they will be filled by people looking to make a buck. And I find nothing wrong with that.

I am also opposed to overly-burdensome government regulation on business. However, the past eight years of constant deregulation has clearly shown us that there has to be a level of trust within the system. I’d like to think that all these big Wall Street firms and publicly traded companies are trustworthy, but we knew from previous experience they are not. Some level of trust and accountability must be enforced. There wasa time when a man’s word was his bond, and a handshake was all that was needed to “seal a deal.” Unfortunately, one can’t count on that today, so we have contracts and a whole contracts law industry.

Having said all of this, it does appear there may be a need to “grease the rails” some to keep the economy from taking a huge plunge, and to prevent the pool of credit from drying up. We’re seeing some of this happen right now. The question would be, how deep could it go, and how long would it last. If it’s a fairly short term occurrence, a few months, the country can weather that. There would be some pain, but we’d get by. The concern is that without some intervention. the economy would go on the skids, and while I agree with those who believe a free market can right itself, the question becomes how much and how long is the pain before it recovers.

I’ll give the people in Washington some benefit of the doubt, and support a bailout that helps mitigate the downturn. However, $700 Billion of taxpayer money, given over to a single, unelected individual with an explicit restriction against any oversight is completely unacceptable. Just like with deregulation, we’ve had nearly eight years of no oversight (and this includes you Democratic members of Congress also), and it has lead to a string of problems now all coming to fruition. So the plan, as proposed by the Bush Administration is a non-starter for me.  Continue reading »

The Free Marketeers and Cardinal Richelieu

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Sep 192008

Today, while running an errand, I passed a sight which gave me some pause. I’m not sure why I noticed, and I’m not sure why I am drawing the assumptions I’m drawing, but I’ll tell the story anyway. Some years back, to make ends meet, I worked a part time job for a lot of years. For several of those years, I sold shoes at a Florsheim shoe store right in the main corner of the largest mall in Greensboro, NC. To pass the time when we were slow, I would often pick out someone walking by, and just based on what I could see, I’d make up the person’s current life situation. If that person came in the store, and any sort of chat developed, I was often astounded by how accurate my story had been, and so, from that perspective, I tell another story. I have no clue how accurate it is, but it illustrates a point about the recent economic downturn.

We were driving up Dale Mabry Highway, the main north-south road here in Tampa. Walking north (going south would eventually run you into the water of the bay) was two men. One of them was maybe near my age in his late 40s or early 50s. The other person was a bit younger, probably in his late 20s. (I don’t think they were related.) They both had backpacks and were carrying more bags by hand. They had the look of people moving on to somewhere else taking along just what they could carry. I didn’t get the idea from their appearance they had been homeless, more like people who had been displaced.

I had only a passing look, but was able to see the younger man’s face best, as he was on the side closest to the street. But in just that fleeting moment, I saw a sense of profound sadness and resignation. He carried a bit of the dazed look one often sees on people walking out of disaster areas. The story I took from these two was that they were possibly construction workers who had just run out of work, and had no or very little money left. Maybe they’d heard from a friend that there was work to be had somewhere else…in another town…and they were headed there in hopes of finding work.

walking.jpgIn my mind’s eye I saw the old black and white photos of the people loading all they had on a truck or in a car, and heading out of the dust bowls. Taking with them this idea of going elsewhere with the hope of just finding a way to survive. I was overcome with an almost overwhelming sense of sadness for these two guys, and for our country as a whole.

A friend I know through his blog and our email exchanges has coincidentally written about people trying to make it in the face of today’s economic downturn. I have written myself in just the past couple of days about all the businesses I’ve noticed closed here in South Tampa. Today’s errand took us to the northern part of town, and there I noticed a number of closed restaurants and other business along this main road. The government is bailing out failing company after failing company. There is a report today on which says that Florida’s unemployment rate hit 6.5% last month, the highest rate in 13 years. The Progress Report reports that, Homeless advocacy groups and city agencies across the country are “reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.”     Continue reading »

Closing and Layoffs-Fundamentals Are Fine

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Sep 172008

If, like John McCain, I had a wife worth $100 million dollars, I guess, like him, I too would probably think the economy was just fine. I don’t have a significant other that is worth that, in fact, he like me, probably has negative net worth. Based on what I’m seeing around here with a lot of closings, the evidence is pretty strong that we’re into a major slowdown.

Some weeks back, Lay and I went to a TGI Friday’s up on Hills borough Ave., and it was closed. I now the whole chain didn’t close, but that was a surprise. Of course there was the big news of all the Bennigan’s closing suddenly, but we also had the local Hardee’s close unannounced several weeks back.

Lay called me a few nights ago from work to tell me he’d noticed that Checkers down on Gandy had closed, and then last week I turned into the Sonic on Gandy to get a sandwich, and it too is closed. Now it was kind of poorly run lately, but it seems odd that all these closings are happening so close together.

Friday night, I saw a friend who is in the packaging business. His company had laid off some people, but he thinks he’ll be OK. Jabil, a major employer in St. Pete announced they were laying off over 100 people. I was chatting with the guy at the car wash near the house. I go there with some regularity, and he said there business was way off.

I’m not sure why, but one of the saddest closings for me was the Albertson’s grocery store in Britton Plaza just around the corner from the house. We have a Publix about equal distance from here in the other direction, but I liked Albertson’s. First, they didn’t seem to move things around every week, so after shopping there for about nine years, I knew where things were, and could get in and out. It was a busy store, but never as busy and hectic as the Publix. Frankly, I don’t like Publix. They cram too much into their stores, and you can barely pass in the aisles, and the distance between the front shelf end caps and the registers is about the width of two grocery carts. On busy days, you just can’t get through that store, and the people are never nearly as nice as everyone at Albertson’s. Supposedly Publix will open in the space vacated by Albertson’s, so at least some of the crowd will get spread around, but I’ll miss Albertson’s.

We’ve seen a bunch of large financial companies crashing and burning. Layoffs are happening, and businesses are closing. I don’t mean this as a political statement, but the wild west days of the Bush administration have allowed a lot of this runaway crash happen, and now Phil Graham, McCain’s primary economic adviser says we’re all just whiners, and things are really fine, and John McCain said just yesterday that the economy was fine. Some months ago McCain admitted he didn’t know much about the economy, but he is now running ads saying he’s the person that can fix Wall Street…and people are falling for it. Go figure.

Darwin on Today’s Economy

 Deep Thoughts  Comments Off on Darwin on Today’s Economy
Apr 102008
This entry is part of 4 in the series Deep Thoughts

Reuters has a report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute showing that, “Since the late 1990’s average incomes have declined 2.5 percent for families on the bottom fifth of the country’s economic ladder, while incomes have increased 9.1 percent for families on the top fifth.” The report goes on to say that middle class hasn’t fared very well either, as income for the middle class has grown only 1.3 percent in nearly eight years.

“The report’s bottom line is that since the late 1980’s income gaps widened in 37 states and have not narrowed in any states,” said Jared Bernstein, one of the report’s authors. “In fact, we’ve found that the trend toward growing inequality has accelerated during this decade.” Continue reading »

Darwin on Today's Economy

 Business, Congress, Corruption, Featured, Places, Politics, Presidency, Society, Tampa  Comments Off on Darwin on Today's Economy
Apr 102008

Reuters has a report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute showing that, “Since the late 1990’s average incomes have declined 2.5 percent for families on the bottom fifth of the country’s economic ladder, while incomes have increased 9.1 percent for families on the top fifth.” The report goes on to say that middle class hasn’t fared very well either, as income for the middle class has grown only 1.3 percent in nearly eight years.

“The report’s bottom line is that since the late 1980’s income gaps widened in 37 states and have not narrowed in any states,” said Jared Bernstein, one of the report’s authors. “In fact, we’ve found that the trend toward growing inequality has accelerated during this decade.” Continue reading »