The Party of Austerity: Still Seeking that Grand Bargain
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Thursday September 6, 2012 11:36 am
One side (Republicans) wants to transform safety net programs and would probably get no further than cutting them; the other side (Democrats) wants to cut them and will use its power to force their allies along. Democrats have become the party of austerity, and they see the question as, bizarrely, one of credibility. You don’t earn your stripes in Washington unless you hurt a poor person, I guess.
Sadly, even in the midst of the speeches over the last two days, you had some austerity policy snuck in. Bill Clinton had a piece about Bowles-Simpson, the least well-received part of the whole address. Elizabeth Warren had a (fleeting, admittedly) reference to reducing debt, and she wasn’t talking about private individuals, for whom it would be a good strategy. Cory Booker introduced the party platform with several paeans to deficit fetishism. And according to a top aide, the President will pursue this as well tonight.
It doesn’t matter that the rank-and-file views this with skepticism. We saw how much the rank-and-file mattered on that platform vote yesterday. They’ll fall in line.
The austerity experiment in the rest of the world has been a total failure. The US is in a slightly better economic position at the moment, but that doesn’t really make it any better a position to sharply pull back on fiscal accommodation. Indeed, the fiscal accommodation is one of the reasons the country IS in that better economic position, relatively speaking. And the adequacy of these programs for beneficiaries should really be the focus rather than actuarial projections 25 years in the future. That’s especially true when there’s an ongoing mass employment crisis, a fire burning through the country of wasted human capital.
But Democrats have truly embraced this policy of fiscal austerity. What saved us from this once is the total intransigence on the part of Republicans to accept a good deal and provide the cover in the form of a modest tax increase. If Democrats let the Bush tax cuts expire, however, they can get what they term a modest tax increase through a tax cut bill, and layer on their spending austerity changes, including social insurance. So even if there’s no warp-speed “deal” after the elections, you would have to look out for one shortly thereafter.
If you want to raise your voice in dissent, now would be a good time.
Local News Anchor Challenges, Calls Out President on Kill List
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Thursday September 6, 2012 10:18 am
Swann not only asked the question about the President’s kill list and the assassination of American citizens from flying robots, he provided the necessary context. The President’s answer was one of casual evasion: “You’re basing this on reports in the news that have never been confirmed by me, and I don’t talk about national security decisions in that way.” Swann didn’t let it end there but explained precisely why this is a silly evasion. We have on-the-record accounts of virtually every major national security player in the White House – including the Chief of Staff, the former Director of National Intelligence, the former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary, and yes, President Obama himself – acknowledging the use of drones in assassination of suspected terrorists abroad. Common sense dictates that the targets for drones aren’t picked through use of a dartboard, but a deliberative process. In fact, the kill list article came out of direct quotes from White House officials to the New York Times. It was held up as an example of the President’s ruthlessness in dealing with national security threats. But when anyone questions it, he retreats to the cloak of secrecy. This mirrors how the Administration deals with these things in court. It’s OK to leak to the media to boost a President’s credentials during a re-election campaign, but if you actually raise the question yourself, it’s a secret. This guarantees a one-sided view of the matter.
Later, Obama said that the non-existent program that he can’t confirm was narrowly targeted against Al Qaeda, has been successful in “taking them off the field,” and that this has allowed us to “transition out of Afghanistan.” And Swann called B.S. on that too. First of all, the targeted drone strikes have gone far, far afield of Afghanistan. Second, this alleged narrow targeting goes all the way to Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the 16 year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, and like his father, an American citizen. Amazingly, Swann mentions Abdulrahman, probably for the first time on Fox 19 Cincinnati. “To say that killing those two American citizens in Yemen can bring an end to the Afghanistan war? That’s simply disingenuous.”
Kamala Harris Embarrasses Herself By Touting Terrible Foreclosure Fraud Settlement
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Thursday September 6, 2012 7:09 am
I have to call attention to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who drew the short straw of having to defend this Administration’s housing policy. And she delivered in all its disingenuousness. Maybe she knew the lie at the heart of her claims, because she gave as flat a speech as I’ve ever seen her give. I saw Harris give a surrogate speech for Obama in 2008 at the California Democratic Party convention, going up against Bill Clinton, and give the better speech than the former President. She knows how to do this. Yesterday, she didn’t.
(N)obody “took on the banks” in the foreclosure fraud settlement. It was designed to deliver immunity for the crimes that created the Great Recession, the largest consumer fraud in history. You should not describe a penalty for documented crimes as “winning $25 billion for struggling homeowners.” And homeowners will never see the bulk of that money. Dozens of states have stolen the hard dollars out of that settlement to plug their budget holes, and that includes Harris’ home state of California. The money designated for homeowners in “credits” has not materialized into principal reduction thus far, but has almost entirely gone to short sales, which banks were engaged in for at least a year prior to the settlement. A short sale is just a kinder, gentler foreclosure which ends with the homeowner out of the home. At the root, it’s a waiver of a deficiency judgment on a home sale (where the sale price is less than the price of the mortgage, a “deficiency judgment” allows banks to go after the individual homeowner for the balance), and in a dozen states – including Harris’ home state of California – banks can’t sue for a deficiency judgment anyway.
And the key thing you have to understand about housing is that nothing has fundamentally changed in the relationship between homeowner and loan servicer. … The broken servicing market has not been fixed, and given the fact that there were no consequences the first time around, it’s pretty clear that it will never be fixed.
Obama is indefensible on this issue. Completely. Totally. Utterly. Harris praises him for “leadership,” but generating a foreclosure mitigation system that was nothing more than “foaming the runway” for the banks, so they could absorb foreclosures more slowly, was anything but leadership.
Eric Schneiderman had the right idea by just not going to this convention, where he would have to defend the indefensible. Harris couldn’t help herself.
What are we cheering for?
Don’t let the conventions distract you from the real lesson of 2012: America is becoming increasingly undemocratic
By Matt Stoller, Salon
Thursday, Sep 6, 2012 12:47 PM EDT
Ultimately, we’re seeing that both parties are rotten. This rot is rooted in economics. Despite the bitter rhetoric, Obama and Romney are basically in agreement about how the country should be governed. Both Romney and Obama want to see the same core economic trends continue. These are, most significantly, a transition to an energy system based on hydro-fracking of natural gas and oil deposits (and some renewable energy), a large national security state, the sale of public assets to private interests, globalized financial flows, a preservation of the capital structure of the large banks, free rein of white-collar behavior and austerity in public budgets. This policy agenda is a reflection of the quiet coup that IMF chief economist Simon Johnson wrote about in 2010.
You can see significant policy agreements in both policy and personnel choices. For instance, Ben Bernanke, the leader of the Federal Reserve, which is the only institution with any latitude for policymaking, was a Bush appointee, but was reappointed by Obama. Top Romney advisor Glenn Hubbard argues Bernanke should be reappointed for a third term. And on a policy level, whether you call it Romneycare in Massachusetts, or Obamacare nationally, it’s the same healthcare program. On trade, Romney pledged, in his economic platform, to sign three free corporate agreements on day one of his administration, those with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. The Obama administration signed them last year, and brags about them in the Democratic Platform. Both candidates ardently support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the secretive NAFTA on steroids treaty being negotiated right now by Obama’s trade representatives.
And while much ink has been spilled on the lies contained in vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech, the Obama campaign is equally dishonest. The premise of the Obama campaign is that the country faces a choice, between a middle class-driven economy and an economy driven by inequality and the rich. But under Obama, inequality has increased even faster than it did under Bush.
The larger consequences of having two candidates who share similar policy ideas, who both believe in police state tactics to suppress whistle-blowers, who both are driven by their allegiance to a wealthy political class, are not acknowledged. It isn’t that American democracy is at risk. American democracy was at risk, perhaps four or eight or 12 years ago. Today, speaking of democracy in America is quaint – the country increasingly resembles an undemocratic state, with a free wealthy elite and a much larger poorer populace, constrained by monopolistic corporations that collude with the government.
In fact, the lesson of the 2012 election, if we are honest with ourselves, is simple, and disturbing. America is shifting from a democracy into an authoritarian state. This authoritarianism is soft, with some remnants of an open civil society, and there is as yet no violence used against domestic political actors. Nazi Germany we are not. But after 14 years of political crises, starting with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the extreme financial deregulation of the late 1990s, it’s time to face the music about what kind of country we have become. The 2012 election is more than a contest of cynicism and disillusionment, it’s an unveiling of a new quasi-authoritarian political system in place of the traditional norms of democratic deliberation.
There is hope. Even authoritarian systems derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. That’s why the 2012 election drives such bitter rhetoric – the appearance of a contest makes the public believe it has a choice in its future, and that more radical measures are unnecessary or hopeless. Nonetheless, the public is losing faith in a rigged money-driven electoral system, which is a step toward reclaiming power. Next is a recognition that it is the elite political class as a whole that is the enemy, including well-marketed corporate figures like Barack Obama, and that it is political radicalism and not liberalism or progressivism that creates the bargaining leverage necessary to force corrupt elites to concede some ground. There has also been experimentation with new models of political organization, most prominently the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, WikiLeaks and Anonymous, as well as models in other countries.
But the idea that America is shifting into an authoritarian system is a difficult truth to handle, as it flies in the face of an endlessly marketed notion of progress and deep-seated political rhetoric about American exceptionalism. Political elites are also very good at dishonest excuses. In her convention speech, for instance, Michelle Obama remarked that change is hard, and slower than we might like. Many Democrats point out that Republicans block change at every turn. But this is misleading – in fact, Obama has turned out to be a transformative president, and has in fact solidified a bipartisan consensus in favor of a sweeping political change, for endless bailouts and endless war. Liberals do not want to recognize that this is his agenda, and that this agenda is designed to turn America into a society where democracy exists only in small rooms of elites. Better to say there hasn’t been enough change, than to recognize the radical change that has occurred.
My Dad has often claimed that Tom Brokaw is just a drunk, but in fairness he may simply be an Ambien addict.
FACT CHECK: Clinton claims of compromise a stretch
By MATT APUZZO and TOM RAUM, Associated Press
9/6/2012 8:18:40 AM ET
CLINTON: “Their campaign pollster said, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.’ Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.”
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth.
Frontiers in fact checking
By Greg Sargent, Washington Post
Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 09/06/2012
I’ve figured out what the AP is getting at with this. The AP is not fact checking Clinton’s quotation of Romney’s pollster, which is indeed accurate. Rather, it is fact checking the part of Clinton’s quote where he said: “Now that is true – I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
In this context, in reminding readers of Clinton’s mendacity during the Lewinsky affair, the AP is fact checking Clinton’s implication that he holds any moral high ground when it comes to criticizing anyone else for dishonesty. Clinton, in effect, is claiming: “The Romney campaign has tacitly admitted it is willing to depart from the truth, if necessary, in order to advance Romney’s presidential ambitions. I couldn’t have said it better myself!” But, see, Clinton himself told falsehoods during the Lewinsky affair – so his passing of judgment on the Romney campaign for dishonesty is questionable.
And so, if you look closely, it’s clear what the AP is trying to do here. But it’s highly innovative to call it “fact checking,” and it perhaps says more about the AP’s desire to appear to be fact checking Clinton aggressively than it does about what he actually said.
(Apparently nobody has a schedule of tonight’s speakers. When I can find something I’ll post it here.- ek)
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
- Kay Hagan Member of the US Senate, North Carolina
- Walter Dalton Lieutenant Governor, North Carolina
- G.K. Butterfield Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
- David Price Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
- Mel L. Watt Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
- James Rogers CEO Duke Energy
- Live Performance James Taylor
- Call to Order Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
- Invocation Reverend Gabriel Salguero President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
- Presentation of Colors American Legion Post 400 of Charlotte, North Carolina, Darrell B. Bonapart, Joe Michalic, Robert E. Welch, Marvin R. Weber
- Pledge of Allegiance
- National Anthem Marc Anthony
- Progress for People Video: Seniors
- American Voices Remarks Carol Berman
- Donna F. Edwards Member of the US House of Representatives, Maryland
- Barney Frank Member of the US House of Representatives, Massachusetts
- In Memoriam Video and Remarks
- Harvey Gantt Former Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
- John Lewis Member of the US House of Representatives, Georgia
- Stronger Together Video: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
- American Voices Jason Crow
- Live Performance Mary J. Blige
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz Chair of the Democratic National Committee Member of the US House of Representatives, Florida
- Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
- Tammy Baldwin Candidate for US Senate, Wisconsin Member of the US House of Representatives, Wisconsin
- Michael Nutter Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Stay Stronger Together Video: Marriage Equality
- American Voices Remarks Zach Wahls
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
- Jim Messina Campaign Manager, Obama for America
- American Heroes Video: Auto Workers
- American Voices Kenyetta Jones, Ryan Case, Ed Meagher, Martha Figueroa, Lucas Beenken, Rob Hach
- Vice Presidential Nomination Intro Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
- Nominating Remarks Beau Biden Attorney General of Delaware and Son of Vice President Joe Biden
- Vote by Acclamation
- Live Performance Foo Fighters
- James E. Clyburn Assistant Democratic Leader and Member of the US House of Representatives, South Carolina
- Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington
8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
- Caroline Kennedy
- Xavier Becerra Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and Member of the US House of Representatives, California
- Jennifer Granholm Former Governor of Michigan
- Eva Longoria
- Brian Schweitzer Governor of Montana
- Charlie Crist, Jr. Former Governor of Florida
- John Kerry Member of the US Senate, Massachusetts
9:00 PM – 10:00 PM
- Video: Veterans
- Admiral John B. Nathman United States Navy, Retired
- Angie Flores
- Dr. Jill Biden Second Lady of the United States
- Vice President Joe Biden Video
- Joe Biden Vice President of the United States
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM
- Dick Durbin Member of the US Senate, Illinois
- President Barack Obama Video
- Barack Obama President of the United States
- His Eminence Timothy Dolan Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York
- Retire Colors
Finally. Now at last we can relax and discuss the truly important news of the evening- why there will be no balloon drop.
We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.
Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon…