Saturday, September 27, 2008
Apparently there is a debate tonight. The funny thing about it is I really don’t even care. There is, quite honestly, nothing Obama could say that would make me not vote for him. His opening statement could be “My name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I am a muslim, and winning this election is all part of a plot to turn the United States into my own personal caliphate,” and I would shrug and vote for him anyway because at least he would go about it in a competent manner. Compared to the last eight years with C+ Augustus and Darth Cheney and the possibility of four more with Johnny Drama and Bible Spice, that would be preferable.
At this point, after seeing the John McCain of September 2008 I'm having a hard time understanding why Obama isn't up by 30 points, even given his relative lack of experience and his race. Before the primaries ended I could imagine John McCain winning this election on the merits, that is to say, I assumed McCain could have won a straight up race based on his experience, Vietnam hero-hood, the success of the surge (and our paying off our Sunni insurgents) in shoving Iraq off the front page and cable network leads, with his picking a competent, respected, if however unglamorous, VP. But McCain September 2008 threw all that away, and has run a truly mind-boggling campaign. Of course, it remains highly possible, maybe even likely, that McCain will still pull it off. If he does, one wonders who will be minding the store in a McCain-Palin administration. The bloom is off the Palin-rose, if responses by ordinary folks to the Couric interview are any consideration. And McCain himself seems scarcely cognizant of where he is. Reports are he uttered nary a comment in the now infamous WH Pow Wow on the Bail Out he was supposedly so central in forcing. The McCain campaign itself seems the strangest sort of effort we've seen in many a year, maybe ever. Unlike VP Biden, VP Palin is nowhere on the teevee challenging the opposition. Once upon a time you could count on the Republicans to run well-organized, purposefully directed campaigns (even if they didn't govern so well), but GOP 2008 seems to be conducting an experiment in campaigning like the party governs. All sneers and hit jobs, based on, um, celebrity POW and Bible Spice candidates.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Deputy Press Secretary Ton Fratto tells us that the banks we are bailing out are actually good firms with a lot of profitable assets:
You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them.
Um, then why are we bailing them out? I thought there was a crisis. Now the government has to step in and help out hugely profitable firms just because one aspect of those banks is as profitable as the rest? Whenever rich people make a mistake, taxpayers have to plug the gap, even if those rich people are still making huge amounts of money?
This is all a lie. They are lying about how much trouble these firms are in. They are lying about their desire for oversight. It is just a big frakkin' lie. I doubt there is a crisis at all. They have done such a good job lying, however, that a majority of the country thinks a bailout is needed.
They are just lying, and looking to make the biggest single rip off in history. If there was a pitchfork and torch event taking place anywhere right now, I'd join in. This seems a helluva a lot like Louis the XVI demanding more money from the Estates General. When does the march on Versailles begin? It might seriously be time for a few hundred thousand people to start sleeping in two shanty towns, one surrounding the Capitol and the other surrounding the White House. If they can get away with this, then they can get away with anything.
The fix is in, and the bailout is going to be passed in one form or another in the near future.
How do I know?
Because it is now being marketed as a “Rescue plan.”
Bailout was apparently too unpalatable for main street. So take solace that when you, as a taxpayer, take part in this ginormous game of kick the shitpile down the road until after 20 January 2009, you aren’t really “bailing out” greedy Wall Street types, you are rescuing America. Don’t you feel patriotic? Maybe we can put green ribbons on our car next to the yellow support our troops ribbons that are beginning to fade.
There's a lot that's alarming about all of this, among which is no real sign from either party that what is essential here is to prevent the same problems from happening again. Buying up the garbage debt or injecting financial institutions with new capital could very well, absent other significant structural changes, result in the same dangerous things happening all over again.
The conversion of the two remaining investment banks to commercial bank status (and the bankruptcy or selling of the others) may provide this essential recalibration. But financial institutions and big money players are going to, by nature, seek the biggests profits in the shortest amount of time by the easiest means possible. The bailout doesn't appear to address these concerns at all. There's no certainty that the $700 bill will be enough or the end of it.
Update: Kos sums up my thinking pretty well.
It feels as if we are hitting several walls at once. For me, it's frighening, but also in some ways, a relief. We have less to fear from reality than from denial of that reality. The market correction, the morass in Iraq, and the exposure of American debt are all good things in the long run. If we have not recognized the damage of the last eight years we cannot repair it.
The party's over.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.
Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.
As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program "Good Morning America," the congressional leaders were told "that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally."
Mr. Schumer added, "History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment."
When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as "somber," Mr. Dodd cut in. "Somber doesn't begin to justify the words," he said. "We have never heard language like this."
"What you heard last evening," he added, "is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly."
All we're hearing so far, as a reason to shell out the $700 bill, is that the markets are jittery. Seems we're due a better, more concrete explanation than that.
GOLDEN PARACHUTES.... The only consistent element of John McCain's recent rhetoric on economic issues is that he's just not thinking things true. In the latest example, McCain has been, in true populist style, railing against "golden parachutes" for CEOs.
The more lavish compensation packages are part of McCain's economic pitch, the more likely he'll face questions about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's golden parachute. And yet, as of this morning, he was apparently caught completely off guard.
On NBC's "Today," Meredith Vieira told McCain, "You have said, senator, that there are a lot of reasons for this financial crisis, but you have said, bottom line, it's those fat cats. It's the greed of Wall Street. And you said, you promised ... to crack down on CEOs who walk away with huge severance packages. And yet the person that up until recently was your public face really on your economic policies was Carly Fiorina.... She was fired in 2005. But she left with what I think was a $45 million golden parachute while 20,000 of her employees were laid off. She's an example of exactly the type of person you say is at the root of the problem."
McCain replied, "I don't think so." When pressed, he added, "I think she did a good job as CEO in many respects. I don't know the details of her compensation package."
Reminded that Fiorina received a $45 million golden parachute after being fired while 20,000 of her employees were laid off, McCain stumbled a bit before concluding, "I don't know the details of what happened."
Hewlett-Packard didn't exactly excel under Fiorina's leadership. The company's stock fell 55% during her tenure, and as Vieira emphasized, she was fired. As "punishment," she walked out the door with $45 million and, soon after, became an advisor to a leading Republican presidential campaign.
This certainly seems like the kind of greed and mismanagement the new McCain should disapprove of, doesn't it?
It's hard to believe the country is on the verge of putting this man, let alone his second in command, anywhere near the gear shifts of political and economic power.
If they end up handing over $700 bill or more they will have forefeited their control. It's as simple as that.
A senior aide to John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, told Politico Sunday that the Arizona senator also favored compensation limits as part of the package, as does the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, according to a campaign spokesman for the Illinois senator.
And what in the world is that crazy liberal big-gubmit terrorist-loving pinko Bill Kristol doing saying this:
Comments by McCain on Sunday suggest he might propose an amendment along the lines of one I received in an e-mail message from a fellow semi-populist conservative: “Any institution selling securities under this legislation to the Treasury Department shall not be allowed to compensate any officer or employee with a higher salary next year than that paid the president of the United States.” This would punish overpaid Wall Streeters and, more important, limit participation in the bailout to institutions really in trouble.