09/02/2011 archive

More elite failure

thereisnospoon says never ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance and pride.  Me, I’m not so charitable.

But Markos’ key critique of the Administration is well-taken. First, everything they do is almost designed to make them look craven and weak. Being accommodating is one thing; being constantly humiliated like Charlie Brown kicking a football is quite another.

And it’s not even working to attract independents. It’s terrible politics, in addition to being terrible policy.

Keep in mind that these are some of the top political professionals in the entire United States advising the Administration on these maneuvers. Which means that either they’re utterly incompetent idiots as Digby and I have repeatedly argued, or they’re paid-off corrupted tools of a grand global elitist conspiracy. Personally, I find the latter idea preposterous hogwash, a comforting opium for the sorts of people who want to believe that there are no solutions, or that the solutions are as as easy as grabbing pitchforks and guillotines and letting blood run in the streets. Yes, there’s rampant criminality–in Wall Street’s case, even an entire culture of criminality. And those criminals should be held to account. But that doesn’t mean that the entire governmental and financial apparatus–or even most of it–is run either by elite criminals or their paid-off lackeys. It just doesn’t work that way, as anyone who has actually dealt with the individual policy makers in question knows.

It’s just really hard–and frankly terrifying–for a lot of people to believe that we’re really governed by selfish, short-sighted, incompetent morons. That our lives are really and truly dominated by idiots who set their eyes on a shiny object like next quarter’s profit statements, or moving the polling dial with white female independents aged 35-65 by five points, or some other stupidity, so much that they miss the big picture, and then grab as much of the loot as possible and make the best of the situation after everything smashes to bits. That’s understandable. But if policy makers want to limit the growing number of conspiracy mavens out there, it might be advisable for them to try putting competent people in charge for a change. Otherwise, they’ll get the paranoid public attitudes toward them that they deserve.


Seems like no matter which door you peek behind, a neoliberal is behind it with a wrong answer. And when they’re called on being wrong, there’s another neoliberal waiting behind the next door with another wrong answer. In fact, there’s an endless string of stupid and/or corrupt business school graduates waiting to tell us that the banking sector crisis is the fault of social security, labor unions, universal healthcare, strange swarthy Greeks, individual deadbeat homeowners, welfare queens driving Cadillacs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and anyone and anything else they care to dream up. Anyone, of course, but the banks, business school grads and Milton Friedman acolytes who drove this car straight in the ditch and refuse to take any responsibility for having been right behind the wheel the whole time.

Herr Doktor Professor

Zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year US bonds is down to 2.04%, and it’s negative on inflation-protected securities.

Too bad there weren’t any prominent economists warning that the obsession with short-term deficits was a terrible mistake, that austerity would undermine hopes of recovery. Oh, wait.

The awful thing is that those of us who warned about all this – based not on some unorthodox doctrine, but on basic textbook macroeconomics – weren’t so much argued down as just ignored. Somehow, those with actual power were convinced that fiscal austerity wasn’t just an option but the only option, and that anyone arguing with that – even people like me and Joe Stiglitz, who had a few easy-to-understand credentials – were just not part of the serious discussion.

Nobel Prizes?  They mean nothing.  Look at Obama’s.

Is austerity killing Europe’s recovery?

By Howard Schneider, The Washington Post

Published: September 1

(T)he budget cutting has been coupled with a reluctance by the the European Central Bank to stimulate economic growth like the Federal Reserve has in the United States; the ECB has instead raised interest rates twice this year to contain inflation.

Those steps have sucked hundreds of billions of dollars out of a European economy that may be edging towards recession.

Such a downturn, by choking off government revenues and increasing the demand for public services, could put struggling countries such as Spain and Italy at risk of missing the very deficit-reduction targets that budget cuts and other austerity measures were meant to achieve.

In Spain, for instance, where the parliament this week is voting to place constitutional limits on government deficits in a bid to reassure global investors, some analysts say the country is taking the wrong medicine. Spain’s debt level remains lower than even that of Germany, the continent’s strongest economy and one of the world’s benchmark credit risks. But Spain’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the United States, and some economists say the country needs a healthy dose of policies to restore growth, not constrain it.

Recent statistics showed that the combined economy of euro-zone countries nearly stalled from April through July, with growth of just 0.2 percent. Germany’s economy, one of the main props of the region, grew just 0.1 percent. Analysts project Spain’s annual growth at about 0.7 percent for the year, far below prior government estimates of 2.3 percent.

With the euro-zone economy slowing and governments aggressively cutting, the ECB may need to concede its rate increases and tight money were a mistake…

Like that will ever happen.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

New York Times Editorial: Oh, Grow Up

Whenever we think Washington couldn’t get more cynical or more craven, it proves us wrong. So we will resist the temptation to say it’s hard to imagine anything more base than the food fight over President Obama’s planned speech to Congress.

The contemptuous reaction from the House speaker, John Boehner, to the president’s request to address a joint session next Wednesday – the day Congress returns from its summer recess – was appalling. No matter how he feels about Mr. Obama personally or politically, there can be no excuse for his lack of respect for the office, to which he is second in the line of succession. And it was distressing to watch President Obama fail, once again, to stand up to an opposition that won’t brook the smallest compromise.

What made this even more appalling is that the president will be speaking on the country’s most pressing problem – the need to create jobs and stave off another destructive recession.

Paul Krugman: Eric and Irene

“Have you left no sense of decency?” That’s the question Joseph Welch famously asked Joseph McCarthy, as the red-baiting demagogue tried to ruin yet another innocent citizen. And these days, it’s the question I find myself wanting to ask Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who has done more than anyone else to make policy blackmail – using innocent Americans as hostages – standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Cantor was the hard man in the confrontation over the debt ceiling; he was willing to endanger America’s financial credibility, putting our whole economy at risk, in order to extract budget concessions from President Obama. Now he’s doing it again, this time over disaster relief, making headlines by insisting that any federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Irene be offset by cuts in other spending. In effect, he is threatening to take Irene’s victims hostage.

Ian Mount: Argentina’s Turnaround Tango

ARGENTINA may seem like one of the last countries on earth to offer lessons for dealing with economic malaise. Once the eighth-largest economy in the world, it steadily slid through the 20th century, thanks to decades of repressive dictatorships and inconsistent market experiments. This ended ignominiously in 2001, when it defaulted on $100 billion in sovereign debt, plunging over half its 35 million people into poverty.

That, at least, is the Argentina people know. Since then, it has performed an economic U-turn – an achievement largely unnoticed outside Latin America, but one that President Obama and Congress should look to for inspiration.

Robert Kuttner: Feeble President, Feeble Plans

Obama’s jobs plan: Go work for free!

On Wednesday, I posted an item titled “How Not to Solve the Jobs Problem.” The case in point is President Barack Obama’s embrace of a state program called Georgia Works, which tries to turn unemployment insurance into a kind of sing-for-your-supper “workfare” program.

Jobless workers in Georgia drawing unemployment compensation are encouraged to go work for private employers-for free-in exchange for some kind of training. They get a small onetime stipend of $240 as an inducement. The premise is that working for free will help them get a foot in the door and maybe get hired (if the employer hires). According to Georgia’s own statistics, however, only about 15 percent do.

This pitifully inadequate program is very likely to be part of Obama’s forthcoming jobs speech.

But let’s drill deeper. Why is the administration embracing such a right-wing and futile program? Obviously, the problem in Georgia is the unemployment rate, of 10.1 percent, not the fact that unemployed workers lack a few weeks’ training for low-wage jobs.

Mark Engler: Is “Free Trade” Obama’s Jobs Plan?

After a slight scheduling kerfuffle, President Obama is now set to give a major speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress next Thursday, September 8. Commentators have speculated that Obama could “go big” in his proposals to fight unemployment, and there are some solid suggestions on the table for how the government could help put Americans back to work. These include major investment in public infrastructure and changing the tax structure in order to reward businesses for creating U.S. jobs, rather than off-shoring their production abroad.

Unfortunately, Obama is also likely to advance some bad ideas. In his pledge to “to find bipartisan solutions” to the country’s economic problems, the president will almost certainly push several neoliberal “free trade” agreements. Specifically, he is expected to reassert his support for previously stalled trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

Wendel Potter: Rick Perry’s Texas Health Care Hoax

In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is perpetuating a convincing hoax: that implementing Texas-style tort reform would go a long way toward curing what ails the U.S. health care system.

Like his fellow GOP contenders, Perry consistently denounces “Obamacare” as “a budget-busting, government takeover of healthcare” and “the greatest intrusion on individual freedom in a generation.” He promises to repeal the law if elected.

Unlike those in the “repeal-and-replace” wing of the Republican Party, however, Perry has emerged as leader of the “repeal-and-let-the-states-figure-it-out” wing that believes the federal government has no legitimate role in fixing America’s health care system.

Obama’s War On American Values

In June of 2007, John A. Rizzo had been the C.I.A’s acting general counsel on and off for most of the past six years, including the period in 2002 when the Bush administration was constructing a legal foundation for the agency’s then secret detention and interrogation program. As acting council, it was Mr. Rizzo has guided many agency leaders on the legal labyrinth of clandestine operations and the often ensuing investigations.

During his confirmation hearing’s for the permanent post before the Democratic controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, Senate Democrats pressed Mr. Rizzo about whether he agreed with a 2002 Justice Department memorandum that gave legal guidance to the C.I.A. program. The memorandum argued that nothing short of the pain associated with organ failure constituted illegal torture. The memorandum had been issued at the request from the agency on the use of interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, in secret detention centers overseas. While Mr, Rizzo testified that at the time he did not object to the memorandum, he told the Senators that he now felt that it was overly broad. In September, just before the was to vote to reject him for the position, the White House withdrew the nomination without explanation. Mr. Rizzo remained in his position until the Summer of 2009 when he retired after 30 years.

Now two years since his departure, Mr. Rizzo granted an interview to PBS’s Frontline, “Top Secret America” on September 6 and what he is saying further confirms that President Barack Obama has lied, and continues to lie, to the American people about the CIA’s secret programs and who knows what else.

   I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort. Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that.

   But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people.


With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.

As a candidate, President Obama had promised “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities to confront them.” He pledged to overhaul of the Bush administration’s war on terror, which he criticized for compromising American values. He had also promised in 2008, that he would filibuster the reauthorization of FISA without major reforms. He lied then, too, voting for the act’s renewal and “promising”to say, to fix it later. Needless  FISA not been “fixed” nor has the Patriot Act which has been extended for four years, unamended, at the president’s request. For this Mr. Obama has garnered the approval of admitted war criminal and former Bush Vice President, Dick Cheney who proudly proclaimed in an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen

“[Obama] ultimately had to adopt many of the same policies that we had been pursuing because that was the most effective way to defend the nation.”

Obama has continues these core Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, strengthening them and  converting them from right-wing dogma into bipartisan consensus. Dick Cheney must be so proud.


On This Day In History September 2

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 2 is the 245th day of the year (246th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 120 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1969, America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and e-mail.

Several inventors worked on early versions of a cash-dispensing machine, but Don Wetzel, an executive at Docutel, a Dallas company that developed automated baggage-handling equipment, is generally credited as coming up with the idea for the modern ATM. Wetzel reportedly conceived of the concept while waiting on line at a bank. The ATM that debuted in New York in 1969 was only able to give out cash, but in 1971, an ATM that could handle multiple functions, including providing customers’ account balances, was introduced.

ATMs eventually expanded beyond the confines of banks and today can be found everywhere from gas stations to convenience stores to cruise ships. There is even an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Non-banks lease the machines (so-called “off premise” ATMs) or own them outright.

Public Policy Polling

Tip o’ the Hat to Art Pronin @ Taylor Marsh who introduces it thusly-

PPP polls have been dead on accurate for several years now. And boy does their latest show trouble for Obama 2012. Their latest has 54 percent disapproving of the president. I sure wish the folks in the WH would read real polls sometime.

Obama keeps hitting record lows

Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In our national polling for Daily Kos Barack Obama has hit a record low approval rating 3 weeks in a row now. He’s gone from 43/53 to 42/53 to now 42/54 in our poll this week.

What might be most noteworthy is this week’s poll is how bad Obama’s numbers are with a few key and usually dependable Democratic constituencies. He’s under water in union households at 44/47. He’s also under water with voters under 30 at 45/48. The Northeast tends to a pretty dependable region for Democrats but Obama’s under water there at 47/49. Obama’s usually been able to hold his ground with female voters but he’s under water with them too at 45/49. And even with African Americans his approval rating’s down to 76%, about as low as we’ve ever found it.

(L)ast week … Democratic enthusiasm was at a year long low. Now it’s at a lower year long low with only 47% of the party’s voters ‘very excited’ about voting this year compared to 58% of Republicans.

Obama trails a generic opponent 48-44 on our national poll this week, including 51-37 with independents.

Public Policy Polling August 25 – 28

For readers who are allergic to orange I’ve done the best I could.  There are no comments at either link.

I’m sure those Independents and base voters are just champing at the bit to flock back to him after the spectacular cave on the timing of his clueless “Jobs” agenda speech, putting licking John Boehner’s boots before every Red Blooded ‘murkan’s love of the NFL.

You guys are so much smarter than all us serfs and peons.

“When people feel uncertain, they’d rather have somebody that’s strong and wrong than somebody who’s weak and right.” – Bill Clinton

Weak AND Wrong ain’t even in the game.  I’m afraid Archangel M is correct- Obama Concedes Election More Than a Year Before It Happens.

Electoral victory my ass.

This Week In The Dream Antilles

It’s called the Dream Antilles, emphasis on dream.  Here’s one now coming in from left field:

My fellow Americans.  And especially those of you who are unemployed.  I have called you to come together today, Labor Day 2011, 61,000 strong to Soldier Field in Chicago, so that I, your president, could explain to you how I am going to get you back to work and how I am going to re-start the economy.  And to ask humbly for your support in pressuring Congress to enact these essential proposals that I will shortly lay out. I was going to tell all of this to Congress.  But I see no reason, in light of Congress’s penchant for obstruction and delay and partisan politics, to talk further with Congress about my plan.  No.  I want to talk to you.  Because you are the people that matter.  And you will help me to increase employment.

I’m sure you understand that Congress is obdurate.  That Congress plays politics with your lives on a regular basis.  And that some of its members are nothing but stooges for the multinational corporations that financed their election.  But that doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is that you don’t have work.  That you are unemployed.  That you and your families are suffering hard times.  And I want to put you back to work.  Immediately.  Without further delay.

I have a good plan that will put you back to work.  I am going to describe it in detail this evening.  But we all need to understand that to pass this bill in this most obstructionist Congress, I will need your active help.  I will need you to stand up for this proposal.  I will need you to be active, to make calls, to send emails, to write letters, to demonstrate, to picket, to speak out.  I am asking you, if you agree with the proposal , to do these things and more to tell Congress clearly and explicitly that you demand that this proposal be enacted.  And that the consequences of failure to enact these proposals are quite simple: those who block it will be replaced in Congress by legislators who understand the plight of the unemployed and who will enact measures to create employment.  It’s that simple.  Vote for the proposal, or go home.

My plan is unspeakably simple.  It is a broad stimulus package, far larger than the previous bipartisan stimulus package, that will make America’s economy run again and will without any question greatly increase employment.  My detractors in the media, and those who sit across the isle in Congress, and even some of those in my own party, and all those who seem to delight in ignoring your misery, will roll their eyes and rent their clothing because these measures will briefly increase the deficit.  These measures will definitely increae the deficit in the short term.

But I tell you, and those who undertand economics will tell you that this increase in the deficit simply does not matter.  At all.  And those who argue that it is a problem will be enacting their ideology.  But they will only demonstrate beyond all question that they do not understand macroeconomics at all and that they are simply pawns of those who would continue to siphon economic wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest 1% of our population, and continue unemployment at ridiculously high levels, and deny you the dignity of earning a respectable living.

I will not allow them to paralyze our economy further with their partisan, ideological nonsense.  I will not allow them to increase the suffering of workers further by refusing to enact measures that will spur employment.  I will not allow them to block the taking of necessary, short term steps to re-start the economy and provide employment.

America’s problem is not its debt.  It is not its deficit.  It has never been its problem.  America has always paid its debt and it always will.  America’s problem is simply this: creating jobs.  And there is absolutely no way to create jobs without increasing government spending.  We know this because we’ve tried everything else.  We’ve tried tax cuts and created more misery and it hasn’t created a single job.  The Federal Reserve has already done all it can with monetary policy.  It hasn’t been able to spur employment.  So.  Fiscal policy is the only device left that can spur employment.

When we create jobs, when we get the economy running again, the deficit will heal itself.  Because tax revenues will be increased, because more people will be working and more people will be paying taxes.

Most important, this is not a time to contract government spending by cutting programs.  The contrary is required: we need to spur employment by increasing government spending.  In short, those who insist on balancing the budget, on decreasing the deficit, on cutting spending have a fundamental misunderstanding of macroeconomics.  And I am not going to permit their willful ignorance of economics further to destroy the nation’s economy….

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Your Bloguero likes to know you’ve visited.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Worst Persons 8.31.11

Worst Persons: J.C. Penney, Glenn Beck and Eric Cantor

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Jobs row, polls a new blow to Obama

By Stephen Collinson, AFP

4 hrs ago

A new Republican rebuff and a miserable set of opinion polls cast new scrutiny on President Barack Obama’s drained political authority Thursday, as a pivotal fight loomed over the economy.

A row over an issue as mundane as the timing of Obama’s big jobs speech also suggested that hopes for a Washington truce for the sake of the sickly recovery will likely be consumed by the usual partisan stew.

Obama staked out a bold gambit on Wednesday by asking Republican House Speaker John Boehner to host a rare joint session of Congress to debut his new economic plan on September 7 — the same night as a Republican debate.