Sunday, January 27, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
The Politics of an Economic Nightmare
posted by Robert Reich | 8:07 AM | 180 comments
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Politics of an Economic Nightmare
A possible economic meltdown is worrisome enough, but a possible meltdown in an election year is downright frightening. For months now, Republicans have been pushing the White House to take some action that looked and sounded big enough to give them some cover if and when things got worse. President Bush has now responded with a stimulus package more than twice as large as the one Bill Clinton briefly entertained at the start of 1993 but couldn't get passed.
Not to be outdone, Democrats want to appear at least as bold, which means they'll suspend pay-go rules and throw fiscal responsibility out the window. In other words, hold your noses, because the "bipartisan" stimulus package that's about to be introduced could be a real stinker, including tax cuts for everyone and everything under the sun -- except, perhaps, for the key group of lower-income Americans. These are the people who don't earn enough to pay much if any income taxes, but who are the most likely to spend whatever extra money they get and therefore are most likely to stimulate the economy. The real behind-the-scenes battle will be over whose constituencies get what tax cuts, and for how long. Don't be surprised if the only thing Congress really stimulates is campaign contributions.
Meanwhile, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and Co. have surprised everyone with a rate cut larger and sooner than expected. The three-quarters of a percentage point ("75 basis points" in biz-speak) cut announced Tuesday morning may not sound like much, but it's bigger than any rate cut in decades. The politics here are more subtle because Bernanke and his Federal Reserve governors are supposed to be independent of politics. But as witnessed under the reign of previous chairman Alan "it's prudent to reduce the surplus with a tax cut" Greenspan, Fed chairs can have political agendas. Bernanke has been under a lot of pressure lately to cut rates big-time -- and the pressure has come not only from Washington Republicans but from panicked Wall Street Democrats, including, apparently, my old colleague Robert Rubin, formerly President Clinton's treasury secretary. (By the way, what could Rubin have been thinking when he allowed Citicorp to sell all those fancy securitized debt instruments, while agreeing to buy them back if they couldn't be resold?) Expect lots and lots more Washington activity -- enough seemingly bold strokes to convince voters that our nation's capital is doing whatever is necessary to stop whatever seems to be going wrong with the economy.
The problem is, people have different views about what's going wrong. Wall Street sees it as a credit crisis -- a mess that seems never to reach bottom because nobody on Wall Street has any idea how many bad loans are out there. Therefore, nobody knows how big the losses are likely to be when the bottom is finally reached. And precisely because nobody knows, nobody wants to lend any more money. A rate cut won't change this. It's like offering a 10-pound lobster to someone so constipated he can't take in another mouthful.
Main Street sees it as a housing crisis. As I've noted, homes are the biggest assets Americans own -- their golden geese for retirement and their piggy banks for home equity loans and refinancing. But home prices have been dropping quickly. It's the first time this has happened in many decades -- beyond the memories of most Americans, which is why they never expected it to happen, why they bought houses so readily when credit was so easily available, and why so many people bought two or more of them, speculating and fixing up and then flipping. But now several million Americans may lose their homes, and tens of millions more have only their credit cards to live on and are reaching the outer limits of what they can spend. As consumer spending shrinks, companies will reduce production and cut payrolls. That has already begun to happen. It's called recession.
How much worse can it get? As I said before, the housing bubble drove home prices up 20 to 40 percent above historic averages relative to earnings and rents. So now that the bubble is bursting, you can expect prices to drop by roughly the same amount, and new home construction to contract. The latter plunged last month to its lowest point in more than 16 years. A managing partner of a large Wall Street financial house told me a few days ago the scenario could get much worse. He gave a 20 percent chance of a depression.
Even if a stimulus package were precisely targeted to consumers most likely to spend any money they received, the housing slump could overwhelm it. According to a recent estimate by Merrill-Lynch, the slump will hit consumer spending to the tune of $360 billion this year and next. That's more than double the size of the stimulus package President Bush or any leading Democrat is now talking about. And the Merrill-Lynch estimate is conservative.
In reality, the crisis is both a credit crunch and the bursting of the housing bubble. Wall Street is in terrible shape and Main Street is about to be in terrible shape. And there's not a whole lot that can be done about either of these problems -- because they are the results of years of lax credit standards, get-rich-quick schemes, wild speculation on Wall Street and in the housing market, and gross irresponsibility by the Fed, the Treasury and the Comptroller of the Currency.
As a practical matter, our only real hope for avoiding a deep recession or worse depends on loans and investments from abroad -- some major U.S. financial firms have already gotten key cash infusions from foreign governments buying stakes in them -- combined with export earnings as the dollar continues to weaken. But this is something no politician wants to admit, especially in an election year. So we're going to go through weeks of posturing about stimulus packages of one sort or another, and then see enacted the big fat bonanza of a temporary tax break that will likely have little effect. That, perhaps along with a few more rate cuts by the Fed. The presidential candidates will be asked what should be done about the worsening economy, and they'll give vague answers. None will likely admit the truth: We're going to need the rest of the world to bail us out.
Want to prevent a depression? Impeach Cheney
Want to Prevent a Depression? Impeach Dick Cheney
By Bob Fertik, Democrats.com
Posted on January 25, 2008, Printed on January 25, 2008
As we all know, Nancy Pelosi's "Capitulation Congress" will do absolutely everything it can to avoid a battle with Bush over his utter contempt for the Constitution, the rule of law and even Congress itself.
Remember Pelosi's 2006 campaign reason No. 1 for electing a Democratic Congress? "Subpoena power." So what about all those subpoenas Bush flagrantly and illegally defied in 2007? Never mind, says Pelosi.
House Democrats will postpone votes on criminal contempt citations against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, while congressional leaders work with President Bush on a bipartisan stimulus package to fend off an economic downturn, according to party leaders and leadership aides.
Senior Democrats have decided that holding a controversial vote on the contempt citations, which have already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, would "step on their message" of bipartisan unity in the midst of the stimulus package talks.
Ah, "bipartisan unity." If that phrase means anything, doesn't it require compromise by both parties? So why is it that since Reagan came to Washington in 1981 -- including the eight years of President Clinton -- "bipartisan unity" has always meant Democratic capitulation to Republicans? Every progressive knows what Republican Grover Norquist famously said: "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."
At the moment, the Washington establishment -- and Democratic "leaders" -- believe the slightest hint of constitutional conflict would terrify financial markets and trigger a depression. So if "bipartisan unity" is the issue-above-all-other-issues, why doesn't the Washington establishment demand that Bush show some bipartisanship by respecting lawful (and entirely justified) congressional subpoenas?
American business leaders arrogantly tell foreign leaders that economic growth is impossible without the "rule of law." Well, without the basic legal tool of subpoenas, there is no rule of law -- in the third world or in the United States.
Just imagine what Bush would say if Vladimir Putin defied subpoenas from his parliament. By refusing to hold Bush in contempt, Congress is allowing Bush to be more of a dictator than Putin.
Personally, I believe the single most important thing Congress could do to prevent a depression and restore the pillars of our legal-economic system is to get to the source of all White House legal obstruction -- by starting impeachment hearings for Dick Cheney as advocated by Rep. Robert Wexler. Why?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
MLK March 2008, San Antonio
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The Countdown Begins
P.S. Don't you just love the sorry-assed choices the Repugs have? Tee Hee
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
My grandkids don't have MLK day off??? WHY NOT???
My grandson and I planned to attend the MLK march on Jan. 21, 2008, for the 3rd year in a row. I was quite surprised to find that my grandson no longer has MLK day off. Evidently this year the BISD decided that our children should attend school on MLK Day. I fought for years with other parents in the BISD to get this holiday granted to our children, and it was. Now, my grandchildren are required to attend school on this day, this year.
I am extremely angry about this. The legacy of those who fought for civil rights with MLK is now ignored and abandoned by the BISD, why?
For me, and my grandkids, MLK day and the march in San Antonio, with about 100,000 of our closest friends, is an important event. During the 3 mile walk, we pass by the markers denoting each and every landmark event during the civil rights movement. it gives me time to discuss each event with my grandchildren, review what they have (and have not learned) in school, and explain/discuss the history of civil rights in our nation. This is one of the singularly most important events for me as a grandparent. It's not Christmas or a birthday, there are no presents, it's quality time spent learning.
If the BISD won't mark MLK day as a school holiday, they should at the very least, allow children who attend the MLK march to have an excused day off from school.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
OMG another WTF???
However, later on Thursday, Bruce O'Dell, an information technology consultant who is coordinating Election Defense Alliance's analysis, found the percentages of the vote given to Obama and Clinton, according to which counting method was used, were mirror images "down to the sixth decimal place."
"There is a remarkable relationship between Obama and Clinton votes, when you look at votes tabulated by op-scan (computers) versus votes tabulated by hand:
Clinton optical scan: 91,717 (52.95%)
Obama optican scan: 81,495 (47.05%)
Clinton hand-counted: 20,889 (47.05%)
Obama hand-counted: 23,509 (52.95%)
"The percentages seem to be swapped," he wrote, in a short piece posted Thursday on OpEdNews.com. "That seems highly unusual, to say the least."
O'Dell's report has lead many election integrity activists to conclude that New Hampshire's Democratic primary was "stolen" for Clinton. There have been numerous emails saying exactly that on a list-serve used by activists who are parsing the official primary results. Clinton beat Obama by 7,603 votes, according to the official results.full article
WTF???? What is really going on? Earlier article have referred to the vote discrepancy, but now a second article as well. Are we again being sold down the river, for corporate interests who control voting machines?
Our democracy is obviously finished. Sigh.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
By Greg Gordon
Friday 11 January 2008
Washington - A federal appeals court Friday threw out a suit by four British Muslims who allege that they were tortured and subjected to religious abuse in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a ruling that exonerated 11 present and former senior Pentagon officials.
It appeared to be the first time that a federal appellate court has ruled on the legality of the harsh interrogation tactics that U.S. intelligence officers and military personnel have used on suspected terrorists held outside the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The detainees allege that they were held in stress positions, interrogated for sessions lasting 24 hours, intimidated with dogs and isolated in darkness and that their beards were shaved.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the detainees captured in Afghanistan aren't recognized as "persons" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they were aliens held outside the United States. The Religious Freedom Act prohibits the government from "substantially burdening a person's religion."
The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were "foreseeable."
link to remainder of article
WTF???? Are these judges just nuts? Is this really what our nation stands for...oh, well, fuck the constitution and we can decide who are people and who are not? Didn't we decide the who are people thing with the emancipation proclamation, among other things?
Are we a nation of laws or of men? Obviously a nation of fascistic men. One more rung on the ladder to a fascist state has been climbed.
Friday, January 11, 2008
With a little help from my nephew and his Japanese girlfriend, who knows! My nephew is currently stationed in Tokyo, with the USAF.
Monday, January 07, 2008
They're Making News Again
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Obama wins Iowa!!!!!
I am still smiling. We need change, big change. It is time for the younger generation to get out there and take it away from the rusty, moldy old guys in D.C. I bow to the younger generation, and say, please, go forward and make this a better USA, less corporate, more geared for the middle class. Some of your elders (I do not include myself) have forgotten what we strived for when we were young. Perhaps younger folks can revive our old ideals and add their own, which would include caring for those less fortunate, building a coalition to develop a national health care plan, and more.
Video of Obama in Ankeny, Iowa, where I campaigned in 2004, a very nice city with great restaurants and wonderful folks with fabulous flower gardens and vegetable gardens. I bow to the Iowa women when it comes to their gardens.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Barack addresses Jefferson Iowa
Tomorrow, the caucuses occur, and it's nail biting time. No matter what the media says, the Iowa caucuses are unpredictable and they are influential in the race.
I am keeping my fingers crossed for sure.