Oh Noes! He’s Talking Politics Again!

The creative centers of my brain are flipping me the bird at the moment, so I’ll fill up this empty time by spouting off about politics for a spell. You folks in the front rows, ready your tarps; it’s gonna get messy.

* I’m not entirely sure where the GOP is buying its drugs these days, but wherever it is, the dealer must have some really primo shit, because only the presence of red-hot mind-warping pharmacological treats can explain the current GOP talking point that Obama’s off to a bad start. Really? Dude gets the most sweeping social engineering legislation of the last half century passed three weeks into his administration, despite the near-universal congressional opposition of one of the two major political parties in the United States, all the while maintaining his high popularity marks with the public, and he’s off to a bad start? Really? To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, they keep using those words, but I don’t think they mean what they think they mean.

Well, the GOP says, yes, in fact, Obama did get his stimulus bill done, but he didn’t do it with us, and since he promised that he’d do things in a bipartisan fashion, that means he’s failed. There are two things here. One, as regards the stimulus bill, I’m guessing Obama figures the relevant marker for success is whether the thing passed or not. Surprise! It did. Two, when the GOP enforces a party line vote against the stimulus bill and then goes on Sunday morning talk shows to complain about the lack of bipartisanship in the White House, it’s like a shopkeeper complaining that he’s got no sales while he’s waving a gun at anyone who tries to enter the store.

I don’t mind the GOP having a philosophical opposition to the stimulus package; I get queasy myself thinking of all the debt we’re piling on (although it should be noted that GOP governors eying the collapse of their state budgets seem to like it just fine). But trying to pin the blame their opposition to the bill on Obama’s lack of bipartisanship is just a reminder that the GOP standard operating procedure is to assume that most Americans are gullible idjits. Rumor has it, however, that the GOP reality distortion field collapsed somewhere on or near November 4, 2008. I don’t think it’s entirely powered up to full strength yet. At the moment, the only people huffing GOP’s fumes are the GOP folks in Washington.

* Oh, and the other things that makes me want to take an axe handle to the lot of them: The GOP bleating of how the stimulus bill represents “generational theft” after it financed two very expensive wars for the better part of eight years on credit and tax cuts that primarily benefited the very richest among us. Really, Republican Party, just STFU. You know, in the aftermath of 9/11, there wasn’t an American outside of the populations of Berkeley and the Club for Growth who wouldn’t have gladly shouldered the tax burden to pay for the wars we’re prosecuting in the Middle East. But our leaders decided to let our kids pay for that one instead (and, of course, we let them). If the stimulus represents generational theft, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan got there first.

Obama has been very smart about smacking the GOP with the hypocrisy stick on this particular issue, over and over and over again, noting correctly that the GOP handwringing on this issue would be a lot more convincing if the last eight years hadn’t actually happened. Mind you, this is neither here nor there as to the larger argument of whether the stimulus is wise or represents an undue burden on future generations. What it is, is a reminder that of all people, the GOP are not the ones qualified to complain about adding debt load, or to maintain they are actually the fiscally responsible party. The best they could do is argue that, given how much generational theft they were in charge of over the last eight years, any more would be foolish. But if they were really serious about that, they might suggest, say, tax increases. And we know how much that burns them, precious.

* Yes, I know, look, I’m whacking on the GOP again. How unusual. So here, conservative Whatever readers, enjoy: “Liberals not pleased with go-slow approach by Obama.” Seems we have already reached the “hey, you don’t fart cinnamon-scented rainbows!” stage of liberal disenchantment with our current president, because he’s not doing things as quickly as they want him to. Because he wants to think about things or possibly from time to time consult with others or whatever. Curse him for wanting to be more than President of the Left! Now everyone hates Obama! Except, you know, most of the actual American people. But besides them.

Personally speaking, there are a lot of things that Obama hasn’t done yet that I am hoping he’ll get around to sooner than later. On the other hand, he has been kind of busy the last three weeks with that stimulus package, and as a basic rule I’m not opposed to the nation’s executive making sure he’s got a good grip on an issue before dealing with it. It’s that whole “measure twice, cut once” thing. And anyway, didn’t the man get elected because people thought he might be a smart guy who thought about things? “Smart” is not synonymous with “fast,” you know; lot of people like to think it is but it’s not. I’m content to have the man take his time and believe he’s done them well. Because no matter how long he takes, we’ll have to live with his choices for quite a while.

Okay, you’re up. Play nice with each other. Don’t make me break out the Loving Mallet Of Correction. Because you know I will.

184 thoughts on “Oh Noes! He’s Talking Politics Again!

  1. Faster, better, cheaper- I’m happy if Obama drops the ‘pick any two’ idea, and sticks with better. Quality government takes time and thought.

  2. This amuses me because it’s practically a word-for-word conversation my wife and I had yesterday morning when watching Senator McWhine on CNN.

    Mark: “Somehow I can’t see how getting an $800 billion stimulus packaged pass in the first three weeks in office counts as ‘getting off to a bad start.’ And look, now he’s calling it ‘generational theft.'”

    Leanne: “Like eight years and two wars with spending millions and millions of dollars per day in Iraq and Afghanistan somehow doesn’t count as ‘generational theft.’ Hello?! Obama’s dealing with a mess he inherited from you idiots!”

  3. The Republican party of the last thirty years is living proof that Goebbels was right (to paraphrase): If you tell the big lie often enough and long enough, a lot of people will believe it.

    The sheer unmitigated gall of these clowns to accuse Obama of “generation theft” is simply stunning.

    Of course, the failure of the press to call them to account is as bad.

    Oh yeah, life goes on.

  4. The Republican party wishes there to be a economic meltdown, then they can get a cheap source of labor in the United States and do way with any labor standards for safety. If you look at the stimulus package from that point of view, then yes, it has a good chance to fail.

  5. The GOP dictionary defines bipartisan as “We get everything we want and you get all the blame when it all falls apart.” And since Obama is using the actual definition of that word they’re just pissing and moaning…

  6. I’m actually going to argue that–politically–GOP opposition was pretty smart. What better way to reestablish your fiscal conservative bonafides than argue against a multi-hundred billion bill? Sure, it’s hypocritical, but that didn’t seem to touch Reagan and budget deficits, did it?

  7. Please do break out the Loving Mallet of Correction; I do so enjoy its warm embrace. Please sir, may I have another?

    As for the GOP, they’re idiots…but then again, I’m sure that most true political conservatives already knew that. I wouldn’t mind them playing the loyal opposition card if they actually had some real alternative ideas to suggest (apart from the standard party-line drivel, that is).

    As for the Democrats and the ‘stimulus’ package, I’m not entirely sure anyone should be claiming ‘victory’ on the issue, as no one seems to have a clue whether or not it’ll even work. I applaud the President on his efforts to implement decisive action, but I wonder if its the right action. Decisive is not necessarily the same thing as wise.

  8. The last president that seemed to actually care about the national debt was probably Coolidge. “Generational theft” is not new, and certainly didn’t begin in 2001.

  9. Yay, ranting! Even my conservative colleague (yes there’s one) agrees that judging Obama’s presidency as a colossal failure is premature at this point.

  10. Of course, the GOP that’s complaining about generational theft and permanent instead of temporary changes with an $800 billion stimulus package is the same one that got 36 GOP Senate votes for a $1.5 billion package consisting entirely of permanent tax cuts.

    Also, cutting the capital gains tax may or may not be a good idea, but given that it seems to be the GOP’s solution to everything I can’t take the idea very seriously right now.

  11. Won’t people get media-savvy over time, and learn to recognize the old spin tricks… similarly to how we’ve learned to recognize the tricks used in advertising?

  12. Well yes, 14, that’s why we are having this slap the forehead moment of “Can you believe that they believe that?” For my part, my incredulity will stretch for only so far before it snaps off into irrelevance. That might be the GOP’s problem right now. They are the pagers in an iPhone world.

  13. The Republicans need to do the following if they ever want to be taken seriously again:

    1.) Remember that Dr. No is a James Bond movie, not a political philosophy.

    2.) Own up that their small government/light regulation philosophy failed not so much because it’s wrong headed (Dudes, we just decided to spend $800 billion. Only an idiot would think we’ll never need tax cuts and deregulation again. Just not for at least a decade.), but because, like a little kid who somehow got the keys to his daddy’s sports car, they drove that philosophy – and the nation – into a ditch and wrapped it around a tree.

    3.) Marginalize Hannity, Limbaugh, and Coulter. Rush was funny in the beginning, but the only thing any hardliner of any stripe is good for is target practice.

  14. I know you wanted to be even-handed. But really, contrasting fire-breathing like “We would like to have him stand more forthrightly behind the positions that he took during the campaign”, or the groundswell of anger represented by the tens, nay dozens of members of the “Oregon Free Trade Campaign” with the goofiness of John McCain and Rush “I want the economy to fail” Limbaugh??

    Tell you what, as a card carry-liberal, I’ll rant about Obama’s DoJ signing on to BushCo’s torture coverup. We tortured a Binyan Mohammed for reading this joke description of how to enrich uranium:

    First transform the gas into a liquid by subjecting it to pressure. You can use a bicycle pump for this. Then make a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the rope (and attached bucket) around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes. Slow down gradually, and very gently put the bucket on the floor. The U-235, which is lighter, will have risen to the top, where it can be skimmed off like cream. Repeat this step until you have the required 10 pounds of uranium. (Safety note: Don’t put all your enriched uranium hexafluoride in one bucket. Use at least two or three buckets and keep them in separate corners of the room. This will prevent the premature build-up of a critical mass.)

    Obama’s DoJ agreed with the Bushies that even talking what happened to the guy for reading that (he was flown to Morocco, beaten and multiple bones broken, had his penis sliced open and hot stinging liquids poured into the wounds) was a state secret.

  15. Actually, I wasn’t particularly interested in being even-handed; the LA Times article was just something I came across today that I thought I’d comment on.

  16. “…the only people huffing (the) GOP’s fumes are the GOP folks in Washington.”

    Well, and the so-called mainstream press who lede with their nonsense. You know, the “liberal media.”

    C’mon. Respectable objective reporting is one thing, but isn’t it time the press corps literally fall on the ground laughing and pointing when one of these goofs steps up to the microphone? Hasn’t The Daily Show at long last made it safe for that?

  17. You prefaced your comments on that article with with: “Yes, I know, look, I’m whacking on the GOP again. How unusual. So here, conservative Whatever readers, enjoy:” which did seem to be an attempt to cater to both sides.

    I assumed that was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and meant my response in the same vein. (While I am annoyed with that decision, I don’t think that quite means Obama’s presidency is a failure.)

  18. Sure, but giving something to both sides isn’t the same as even-handed. I just found it interesting and used the line as a convenient segue.

    And now we’ve both thought about it more than it needed to be thought about.

  19. J @ 9 & eviljwinter @16: agreed.

    I think that, in order to have a healthy political system (no, I really couldn’t type that with a straight face) we need to have two viable parties with the interest of the nation at heart. I’ve become suspicious that both of our prevalent parties are more interested in the success/future of the Democratic/Republican party than of the United States, and that scares me to death.

    Whether I agree with everything he says/does or not (and he’s human not divine, so my guess is that I’m going to disagree with plenty over the years), I get the sense that Obama is at least trying to prioritize the needs of the nation over the needs of politics – although he could’ve insisted that some of the pork be trimmed out of that bill before the final vote.

  20. What concerns me is not that Obama “failed,” but that according to Paul Krugman and others whose knowledge is far greater than mine, that Obama’s stimulus didn’t resolve the two major problems that exist: the banks refusal to start responsibly lending again and their insistence that the assets they still hold are worth anything more than kindling. You can either make a massive stimulus that says a hearty “F-U” to the banks, or your can make the banks pay the piper by going out of business, but what the stimulus seems to aim for is a middle point that seems to be in the middle.

    The phrase Josh Marshall keeps using is “punted,” and I agree with that term: the President has punted his responsibility down a bit, hoping that by some miracle this resolves itself. That’s what makes me less-than-pleased with how this went down.

  21. Joe @ 24: I’d say there are two different (tightly related, but different) problems. There’s a failed banking system, and a severe economic downturn. Even though both those problems (and others!) have fed on each other, they’re not the same problem.

    TPM’s comments about punting have been more related to the (non-)solution Geitner suggested than to the stimulus package. I’d agree with that call, and I hope to see better from them. But rating the stimulus program on how well it addresses banking problems is mixing apples and oranges.

  22. Jon @ 25: I think you’re right on TPM specifying “punting” on the Geitner package. But everything I’ve read from more knowledgeable sources says that the stimulus simply isn’t big enough to kickstart the economy. That’s where I think the “failure” inside-the-bubble meme has legs (albeit small ones). If there’s any “strategy” in what the GOP is doing (heavy emphasis on if and the quotes), it’s that if the stimulus plan doesn’t work, they jump up and down and yell “We TOLD you this wouldn’t work! You need to cut taxes…blah…blah…blah”

    This is where the “they didn’t do enough” argument from the left comes into play (again, with small legs). They really do believe in the “Go Big Or Go Home” mentality on this. That’s where they’ve watched years of meek Democrats muttering “thank you, sir: may I have another?” and thought their time is now.

  23. Only slightly off-topic: Is John Boehner a wind-up doll? When he comes back to Ohio do they have contests to pick who gets to pull his string to wind him back up?

    I mean, c’mon — he’s from Ohio yet has a never-ending tan, he never seems to change facial expressions and his hair looks like a rug. Couple that with his answer of “tax cuts” to virtually every question posed to him. You gotta’ wonder…

  24. I personally do not believe we have one good, honest, competent, smart party and one stupid, greedy, theiving, lying party. That sort of party bigotry just doesn’t wash. I think it would be a very good thing for the country if national parties could be abolished permanently and people had to judge candidates by knowing something about them, not by whether their signs have a little elephant or a little donkey in the corner. The partisan warfare is the problem, not the republicans or democrats. The reason I voted for Obama is that I thought he seemed less partisan than the last few presidents. So far, it seems I was right.

    That said, this stimulus will add a LOT to the deficit, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Sometimes you have to do that. Bush had the right idea with a stimulus bailout (Obama even said so). But it turned out it wasn’t enough, so we need more. Yes, it was somewhat rushed. But helping the economy in mid-2010 won’t do. It needs to be now.

  25. At the 27th Annual Western States Mathematical Physics Meeting [think: mini-con for extreme geeks, all conversations must contain equations], I just asked some Arizona professors this morning what they thought of their senior senator’s comments, given that Arizona is 3rd in foreclosures among states, or something like that. They were scathing. They could only assume that 100% GOP votes against the StimPack was because of party unity rather than any assessment of the merits of the White House initiative. We reminisced about the year when the only two line items to increase in the State of Arizona budget were to build more prisons, and to build a new Engineering center at a university. “Anomalous year,” said one. “Usually they consider prisons far more important than higher education.” Then they talked about expected cut-backs where they taught…

  26. Didn’t you get the latest GOP memo to the American People? It states quite clearly that the last eight years didn’t actually happen, that it was all moon dust and fairy sprinkles. So there. And besides GOP is closer to GOD, so do not mention the man behind the curtain with his pants around his ankles.

  27. we need to have two viable parties with the interest of the nation at heart. I’ve become suspicious that both of our prevalent parties are more interested in the success/future of the Democratic/Republican party than of the United States, and that scares me to death.

    Uh, welcome to the entire history of the United States (substituting appropriate parties as necessary).
    Rule 1: Political parties exist to win elections
    Rule 2: When rule 1 conflicts with the best interests of the nation, see above.

  28. David @ 38

    True enough. The Whigs actually were the least forgiving of dissdents, having kicked two presidents out of the party. (They were veeps who took over on the death of a sitting president.)

    However, the two-party system is what annoys me the most about American democracy. We either get Coke or Pepsi, when I’d like a viable way to have RC. (Mother was southern. Gotta have RC with Moon Pies, yanno.)

    I would prefer, especially since our executive stands on its own, a multiparty system like most parliamentary democracies have. That’s right. I want Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner to have to squirm and get in bed together (Sorry for that mental image) in the face of Greens and Libs and Socialists and Taxpayer Unionists and…

    You get the picture. Two parties isn’t all that much different from the single-party model, except that you get to choose between two different flavors of ass-hattery.

  29. “You folks in the front rows, ready your tarps; it’s gonna get messy.”

    damn you. i thought i had finally exorcised Gallagher from my brain BUT NO! YOU HAD TO REMIND ME THAT HE STILL EXISTS.

  30. eviljwinter @40: I think the blame for the two-party system lies more on the American people than anything.

    If more people got their heads out of their respective asses and larnt sumthin’ about the issues and who stood for what, we might find more support for some of the fringe parties.

    Oh, and it would help if people actually voted. Alas, apathy reigns, along with the Reps and Dems.

  31. christy @ 23

    Pork? Are you kidding? I’ve read all 700 +/- pages of the blody thing and there isn’t any. (Aside from maybe the ATM nonsense inserted by Collins) Also, there is nothing about “Pelosi’s mouse” or an LA-Vegas bullet train and the rest of the GOP lies about the contents of the bill.

    There is more to the jobs portion of the bill then just ‘creating jobs soon’. Infrastructure and school construction and repairs also have an important secondary effect. All construction larger than a backyard toolbin starts as a bank loan. For fiscal reasons, even if you don’t need one, nowdays you get one and collateralize it with other money in the bank until the loan is covered by other means (purchase, rent, etc.). With the banks mostly going into hoard-mode, construction loans aren’t happening. By now all the construction in the pipeline is about to finalize and none of the usual players wants to risk their money until things are starting to pick up again. Only one place can self-fund construction projects at this time: the Feds or other Government projects (via Fed money). There are hundreds of years of institutional memory (both in how to do things well and also in what wastes time, money and effort, not to mention what kills people and/or maims and sickens them) that would have to slowly and painfully be recovered if we stop doing most construction for months and/or years.

  32. Some random stream of consciousness points.

    1. Anger about Iraq and Afghanistan and how those were blowing our bottom line is fine. But I never heard anything from the Democrats about No Child Left Behind. Or Medicare Part D. Or the last bailout. Or every last fucking Agriculture and Transportation bill for the last eight goddamn years. Worthless rent-seeking boondoggles, all of them. Iraq is at least better than we found it.

    2. Some comparative perspective on where all this money went.

    3. Well, the GOP was going to have to start somewhere in getting back to its core principles of reducing the size and burden of government, and this was as good a place as any. In the absence of true believers who act on their faith, converts are still preferable to heretics.

    4. Doesn’t sound like this bill was really Obama’s. As far as I can tell it was mostly written by the House Democrats (Pelosi, Obey, etc.) who wrote in all their pet projects, and Obama just went along for the ride.

    5. CBO predicts that the recession will last until the last quarter of 2009, followed by a slow recovery beginning in 2010. Meanwhile, the money isn’t going out the door until 2011. Sort of puts a bullet in the idea that this was to “stimulate” the economy. Now, the projects inside may have other benefits. “Stimulus” is not one of them.

  33. The stimulus bill is only a success if it, you know, stimulates. Passage of a “social change” bill which either fails to enact change, or changes society for the worse, will not be viewed as a success, no matter how fast or overwhelmingly it came to be.

  34. So… you’re of the mindset that calling a critic a thief of a greater caliber obviates the criticism?

    Look, the people of this nation need to get something straight: our leadership has been overrun on all sides, Republican and Democrat, by grasping incompetents whose sole objective is to perpetuate their personal and party power over everyone else. Discussing the degree of the theft does nothing to stop it and pointing out that we’ve been mugged consistently for a decade does not either. Arguing that one party is a worse thief is like debating responsibility for the Titanic: while the band plays, the ship of state is sinking.

    In fact, dear friends, we are sinking. All of the stimulus this government could muster is a thimble-thin bailing bucket against the $40 trillion wave of derivatives that is choking the marketplace and rendering banks and pension funds insolvent and illiquid. Banks are failing and Geithner’s unwillingness to answer questions on that front should be very, very scary. If you’d like a scarier look, take a gander at this chart:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nSTO-vZpSgc/SZhJLaCbDRI/AAAAAAAAFn0/g0iEPTX8TGM/s1600-h/Bank+Failures.png

    We have lived in a golden age, where credit was easy and money was loose. We have enjoyed entertainment, food, song and dance and paid for it all in debts uncountable all without thought for tomorrow.

    Now we are being asked to borrow more money without thought for tomorrow as our golden age ends and the magnificent monuments of debt crash down upon us. People who were prudent and careful with their money, who lived frugally and within their means will be taxed as heavily as those who indulged with wild abandon. Nobody in the leadership cares about taxes or honesty or fairness. If they did, wouldn’t they ask: why should the honest, hard-working, non-speculating, careful savers be asked to pay for the freewheeling deadbeats who lived beyond their means?

    There is a great anger rising in this nation, one of a size and depth that should cause our leaders to quail in terror. Since we cannot force them to conduct themselves honestly and in the best interests of the nation as a whole, and we cannot force them to speak the truth about what has been done here, and we cannot even force them to reveal where they have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, what, then, can we do?

  35. Extremists hate moderates. It makes them look, well, extreme. Moderation is hard to do, because you have to *think* about everything. So nobody likes Obama, because he’s not Extreme Like Them, and he thinks just way, way too much.

    Me, I’m partial to guys who think. Go figure.

  36. If you think the national GOP is bad, try the California state GOP. They have become something more akin to a suicide cult than a functional political party. Due to propositions from the 70s, there is a 2/3 majority vote to pass a budget, no Republicans will vote for it because of tax increases, and therefore the state still doesn’t have a budget. The state treasury is delaying paying bills, no state refund taxes are going out, infrastructure projects cannot go forward and are being shut down, and the credit rating is about to nosedive. All the state GOP asks for is more spending cuts, tax cuts, ending of environmental regs, and a constitutional change ‘to live within our means’ followed by odd charts and no firm way to do that without gutting education and social services. The really galling thing is that the biggest Republican counties in the state are the ones that suck down more money from the state than the give in (Kern county, Yolo county and the like). The budget nearly passed over the weekend but they still havent gotten one GOP guy to budge. The no refunds being paid is putting more pressure on the polticos. That and maybe having to mail out IOUs to seniors nexy month.

  37. Masterthief @ 46:

    Point by point:

    1) I’m not sure what your point is here. Yes, Democrats have supported spending in the past and are supporting it now. So? I understand you may oppose their goals (I do myself at times.) But their not being laughably inconsistent on this issue, as the Republicans certainly are.

    2) Those are some pretty bogus figures. Just to pick two at random, Iraq’s already cost considerably more than $600 billion, and the meters still spinning. And the stimulus bill clocks in aroud $800 billion, not the $4 trillion or so shown there.

    3) I guess you take your believers where you find them. But most folks find Republicans who experienced conversion on the day Obama was sworn in pretty laughable. (Especially since a good number of them turned around and bragged on all the good the stimulus will do for their districts…after voting against it.)

    4) The new Democratic president didn’t have anything to do with the plan passed by the Democratic party? I’ll just leave that point lying there on the ground. It’s not even worth engaging with.

    5) Even accepting the blithe assumption that the economy will get better if we just leave it alone, this is wrong. That’s GOP spin, based on a preliminary CBO report. And even taking it at face value, it claims that 64% of spending will go out by 9/30/2010, directly contradicting your assertion that it won’t go out the door until 2011.

  38. You get the picture. Two parties isn’t all that much different from the single-party model, except that you get to choose between two different flavors of ass-hattery.

    You’re going to have to rewrite the Constitution. Two party systems tend to stay in place because majority parties are needed to get anything done given the checks and balances inherent in the founding document.

    And parliamentary democracies have their own quirks and unpleasantries.

    our leadership has been overrun on all sides, Republican and Democrat, by grasping incompetents whose sole objective is to perpetuate their personal and party power over everyone else.

    Nobody pays attention in social studies anymore, do they? Very little of what’s going on now is all that unusual. Lied us into war? I count at least two previous occurrences (Mexico 1848 and Spain 1898). Credit inflation: Teapot Dome Scandal. Etc. etc.

  39. John,

    Obama and the Dems just rushed through the largest spending bill in the history of the republic without giving anybody a chance to even read it. 1500 pages of fine print ( cobbled together in secret behind closed doors) that was still wet when the vote was called.

    Obama and his brain-trust are now saying that this is just the first downpayment on a series of even more expensive “emergency” bills to come.

    I read your stuff because I appreciate your cynical view of the world, which is why I can’t understand why you are so willing to trust these guys so implicitly. Just what is it about reid and Pelosi that makes you think you can trust them with your wallet? Regardless of the party affiliation, these are politicians we are talking about.

    Somehow I think that there will be some buyer’s remorse before this is all over.

  40. Drew:

    “I read your stuff because I appreciate your cynical view of the world, which is why I can’t understand why you are so willing to trust these guys so implicitly.”

    What part of “I get queasy myself thinking of all the debt we’re piling on” gives you the impression of implicit trust? I think I’ve made it fairly clear over time that my own personal inclinations toward the budget are deficit reductions and balanced budgets, and you may expect I will be critical if the monies used in the stimulus go down a big useless hole.

    That said, I’m also aware that in the last 30 years or so, the party that actually has a track record of deficit reduction is not the GOP; likewise I’m also aware that saying something like “these are politicians we are talking about” is implicitly saying “I expect stupidity out of the people I elect.” And I don’t agree with that in the slightest.

  41. without giving anybody a chance to even read it.

    You know that that happens with every year’s budget, don’t you?

  42. As I wanted to vote (but got cut off at the knees by the PATRIOT Act, thanks for helping the Cylons there), Obama was a vote for a chance of sanity. A vote for McCain was a vote for Guaranteed insanity, with a dose of “The Bible Trumps the Constitution” too.

    Fuck that. With a stick. End of line.

  43. David @ 9: Principled opposition might have been smart, but the Republicans were nothing but dumb. I mean, you had Tom Coburn running around saying military jobs don’t create wealth, Ben Nelson and Susan Collins cutting spending to “stimulate” the economy, Kay Bailey Hutchinson saying we should only spend on military infrastructure, and Mitch McConnell saying that no Republican is proposing that we do nothing, while not actually proposing that we do anything. In short, the Republicans demonstrated no discipline, no consistency, no principles, nor even any coherency. All they managed to display was “No”, and every single American paying two whits of attention could see through them plain as day. Republicans have cried “wolf” a few too many times, usually while actively stealing the sheep themselves.

    I personally think the stimulus bill was a horrendous mistake. Even proponents of the bill estimated that only about 70% of the spending in it was “worthwhile”, which means we’re already starting 30% in the hole, and the remaining spending has to generate a 43% return on capital just to break even… ask yourself how many businesses had a 43% ROC last year. But nobody was willing to take time to figure out which 70% was worthwhile, instead they voted on the 1,100-page bill less than 24 hours after it was reported out of conference, during which time it would have been physically impossible for anyone to actually read it. Reckless spending and easy credit got us into this mess. More reckless spending and vain attempts to “unfreeze” the credit markets (i.e., to make more bad loans that cannot be repaid) cannot possibly get us out of it.

    I actually agree that Obama’s presidency has gotten off to a horrible start. Not because he’s failed to do anything he’s set out to do (if anyone seriously thought his attempt at bipartisanship was going to work, they were kidding themselves), but because he’s demonstrated his largest weaknesses are on the precisely the most important issues of the day: the economy, and rectifying Bush’s assault on civil liberties and the rule of law.

    For the latter, on Marcus @ 17 above addressed his use of state secrets in precisely the manner against which he campaigned when the Bush administration did it, but even before that he reneged on his explicit promise to filibuster the telecom immunity bill, and actually voted for it. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Despite all his campaign rhetoric, I no longer have any faith in his administration on this front.

    As for the economy, Obama does not actually understand economics. Watching him in the debates, it was clear he was just saying whatever he thought people wanted to hear (go back and watch him refuse to admit that things even might get worse before they get better). Listening to him try to explain to a crowd in Florida last week what “underwater” on your house meant (and getting the technical details wrong), and listening to his normally smooth speaking voice stumble haltingly through his explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis, pausing periodically as if he’s struggling to even remember the words, is physically cringe-inducing. So lacking any personal knowledge on which to base his decisions, the only thing he can do is rely on his advisers, and his advisers are all either from the banking industry or from the government institutions that got us all into this mess in the first place.

    The only consolation I have is the utter confidence that McCain/Palin would have been even worse.

  44. I really don’t guy you guys who now, suddenly, decide that going into more debt is the absolute worst thing that could happen. None of you had a problem ditching the surplus to give money back to people who were already doing alright. As for Iraq and Afghanistan, not one of you has ever even considered a mention of cost to be relevant to the discussion about whether we should be fighting those wars or not.

    And now it’s gnashing of teeth and rending of garments to even ENTERTAIN the idea of spending hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue our flagging economy. The sky’s the limit when it comes to fighting a war on the other side of the world, but when it comes to staving off depression we have to start pinching pennies?

    Honestly guys, this is why no one takes you or your party seriously. Remember McCain promising to balance the budget his first term, while not really saying exactly how he would do that? That’s the modern GOP; promises divorced from reality. Its no wonder Obama won as easily as he did.

  45. Deficit spending under Bush crippled the economy.

    Ten times as much deficit spending under Obama will SAVE the economy.

    Magic!

  46. Nargel @45
    I wasn’t thinking of “Pelosi’s Mouse” or any other stuff that clearly isnt’ there. I was thinking more along the lines of $25 million to renovate the Smithsonian. While I support the Smithsonian and think that renovating it is a worthy goal, I’m not so sure that that will stimulate the economy of our nation as a whole. Nor am I entirely convinced that investing over $100 million Puerto Rico’s highways are going to have a massive impact on the nation as a whole (although Puerto Rico will clearly benefit).

    Also, over $7 million of apparently discretionary spending for the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health: could be a good idea that will stimulate lots of growth, could be somewhat pork-ish. Not clear (at least to me) from the bill itself.

    And $650 million for digital TV converter boxes???

    Bottom line: I have questions. And I’m just not convinced that everything in this document is there purely for the development of the economy or to cast a safety net for those who are struggling.

    To David @52: You left off a more modern example of government getting us into war covertly. Lend/Lease (and less obvious assistance), anyone? Not that I think it was wrong, but it was against the prevailing national and political climate at the time.

  47. John,

    Do you know whatever happened to Cool Blue? He’s been gone for quite a while. (Lurking?) I seldom agreed with his conclusions, but he usually argued from facts. And you seemed to enjoy debating him. This seems to be a thread he would like to participate in.

    George

  48. George,

    He’s been around, but he “rebranded” as Frank. I’d hoped he would post here too, but it seems that he’s failed in his duty to constantly monitor and immediately respond to every political thread Scalzi posts…or maybe he’s just taking Presidents Day off.

  49. Maybe with the fairness doctorine we can finally shut them up.

    The world does not need to hear what they have to say. Does it?

  50. MasterThief @46: “But I never heard anything from the Democrats about…Medicare Part D.”

    Congressman Pete Stark, CA-13, Chairman of the Health Subcommittee of Ways & Means, on Part D.

    And before that.
    Before that.
    Another.
    One More.

    Actually, there’s more than that, but I’m about to get booted into the moderation queue as is, and I’m sure you’re as capable of searching his press release archives as I am. If you visit the websites of members of committees with jurisdiction over the other things you mentioned, I’m sure you’ll find they haven’t been silent about them either. Most members of the House only have about ten staffers working in their DC offices, including secretary, receptionist, and other support staff. They don’t necessarily have the means to get their message out nationally. They’re happy if the local papers in their district report on what they’re up to.

    Also, this comment is already too link heavy for more examples, but if you really haven’t heard anything from any Democrat about the bank bailout, you haven’t been listening.

  51. Oh yes to comment on this thread. The Republicans seem to have forgotten their attitude after the 1994 mid term elections. You are going to do it our way or the hell with you. And then there was the first six years of George W. the Stupid’s administration. What type of cooperation did they ask the Democrats to participate in?

    And how about Frisk’s “nuclear option” where he wanted to change the rules of the Senate to keep Democrats from using the filibuster? Well McCain did help shoot that one down.

    The Republicans have been losing for four years now, and they seem to have not noticed the majority of the American voters thought they were doing it wrong.

    George

  52. although Puerto Rico will clearly benefit

    Strange. In my world, Puerto Rico is part of America, and Puerto Ricans are American citizens. What are they in your world?

    You left off a more modern example of government getting us into war covertly. Lend/Lease (and less obvious assistance), anyone?

    Actually, that’s not a good example. Roosevelt had a number of casa (?) belli that he could have used if he’d been inclined (in a George Bush state of mind) and didn’t. Was he pushing the limits of alliance as far as possible? Sure. Did he lie us into war? No.

    Google “USS Reuben James” for an example.

  53. Bill @63: Be careful what you wish for. That’s rather dangerous territory you’re wandering into there, the kind of thing that would come back to haunt you down the road.

    That said, just because Rush Limbaugh has a right to speak, does not in any obligate me to listen to that bloated fartsack.

  54. #50: The bipartisan attempt to compromise on a California state budget failed by 1 vote last night. Pink slips go out tomorrow to the 20,000 State workers with least seniority. This is the 2nd shoe: the first was that most State offices are shut every other Friday, and their employees simply not paid (a de facto pay cut of about 5%). I’m worried about the 3rd shoe…

  55. Christy @60 –

    So, you mentioned about $783 million that you had pork problems with, out of the $787 billion stimulus plan. In other words, you’re complaining about 0.1% of the total bill. If that’s the best you can come up with to complain about, it’s an awesome bill. All the GOPer talking heads also seem to have issues with provisions that are in the millions of dollars range, and I’ve not seen anyone with issues with more than a few percent of the total.

  56. John:

    Shhh! They might hear you, might even listen, and then they might change their–less than truthiness(?)–to make less nonsense. Don’t help the GOP with their homework.

    WRT the LMofC… You damn pseudo-Unitarian Jihadists are all talk and no actions. We do not fear you.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle
    AKA: Brother Sword of Impending Introspection

  57. David @ 71:
    I gave a few examples, not an exhaustive list.

    My point is: I have questions. I’m not certain almost $800+ billion (even sans the $800 million) is perfectly and ideally targetted. Are we not suppsed to be skeptical consumers? I hardly think that saying that I’m not sure that there is partisan politics involved in these decision is the same thing as saying, “It’s doomed and the Repbulicans will show us all when it’s too late!”

    I’m saying I’m not sure and that there are reasons to question.

    And I can certainly say that $783 million would be a lot of money in my world (the world of state government, not my personal financial world…although it would be a lot there, too). Perhaps the fact that such a lot of money is such a tiny percentage of the overall cost of the bill should encourage people to look closely, to question.

    Granted, we are people, not nations. But am I the only one who is given pause by the fact that we’re tossing around discussion of hundreds of millions of dollars as though it were chump change?

    David @ 67: no doubt. You quoted it from my response. But one of the things that I personally am trying to use as a guage while reading this bill and its provisions is: is this something that it generalizable, that has a chance of impacting anyone who may need it regardless of where in the US they may be? There’s a lot of infrastructure in the bill. Why Puerto Rico? Why not Guam? Or the US Virgin Islands? Again, questions.

  58. is this something that it generalizable, that has a chance of impacting anyone who may need it regardless of where in the US they may be?

    I apologize for being blunt, but that’s kind of a dumb measure. _Of course_ there are going to be state or region specific stuff in a bill this large. Hoping that everything will be national defeats the purpose. If a bridge in Minnesota or a highway system in Puerto Rico desperately needs repair then a good infrastructure program is going to attend to that. At least part of the package is a commitment to infrastructure.

    I’m sure there’s something in there that hits Guam and the US Virgin Islands. Hell, I’m sure there’s something in there that hits every state in the Union.

  59. “Maybe with the fairness doctorine we can finally shut them up.”

    Finally, an honest fascist. The true face behind the PC mask.

  60. @strech #12 –

    David Frum put it best about capital gains taxes: “Capital gains! Who has any capital gains to tax in the first place?”

    I work for a successful company that’s still making a sizeable profit even in this economic weather, but I still lost money in its stock. With some more selling off here and there when things got dire, I’m going to be declaring serious capital *losses* on my tax return. My colleagues are in similar straits.

    (And no, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a tax break.)

    At the moment I’m watching the sane conservatives squirm as their insane or morally/politically-deficit partners in … I have no idea anymore … talk about stacking money in dollar bills, dangle toy mice, and dump the bill itself on the floor in a kind of toddler tantrum on the House floor. At one time I’d be hideously joyful, but now I just wish that the right half were functioning and supplying useful advice rather than this lame bullshit they’re pulling.

  61. christy @ 61

    The cost of renovating a building the size and complexity of the Smithsonian is going to be at least in the area of $25 million. The job is going to create or save a fair number of jobs too.

    The folks making the converter boxes and those needing to buy them (already mandated timetable which the GOP has already refused to extend) could probably use the economic help. You know, economic aid that isn’t aimed directly at the wealthiest 1%?

    You may be right and a minimal percentage of the total may be badly targeted. I prefer this over what we’ve had for most of the last 30 years.

    MiniTru @ 78

    Actually, with a real fairness doctrine, we would get something better than the almost 24/7 republican spin and lies that we get now.

  62. Post 64 is such a succinct example of the creeping reduction of respect for liberty that it actually made me queasy to think someone could be so flippant about shutting down speech Washington doesn’t approve of in its current political makeup.

  63. @68

    Independent of the conversation, the term you were thinking of is “Casus Belli.” (I think.)

    Boy, do I love these political pieces, the snark is always so fresh and clean, and cogent!

  64. @51 Jon Marcus. Point by point:

    1. My point was that neither party can claim anything remotely resembling wise fiscal policy, much less the competent fiscal policy we’ll need to get out of this mess (which includes not digging any more money holes.) But the standard is not perfection, but the alternative. There’s “mostly wrong” and “completely wrong.”

    2. Apologies for not being clearer… that $4 Trillion is the legacy of what happened the last time we tried to “stimulate” the economy. But still, it’s a useful metric. (And the numbers are from Barry Ritholtz’s forthcoming book on the bailout.) What took us six years to spend on Iraq we just exceeded in a single bill. I say we just add this on to the current tab, but if you want to start a new one, fine by me. Either way, it’s going to be paid.

    3. The GOP is going to be like an alcoholic who just got dragged into his first court-ordered AA meeting after wrecking the car and isn’t even sure why he’s there. Fixing their credibility on spending is going to take a long time. Just one day at a time. (And the only R’s in Congress I’ve heard of pulling the “I supported it before I was against” are Mica of FL and Young of AK, who never saw pork they didn’t like. And speaking of Young, ironically, it was Sarah Palin who sent her Lt. Gov – Sean Parnell – into a GOP primary race to try to dethrone Young. Young squeaked it out by 200 votes. I hope these and other purges will be more successful come 2010.)

    4. Yes, it was the House Democrats who crafted the bill and Obama went along for the ride.So saith the New York Times.

    5. Updated info from the CBO on the package that passed. Looks like most of the money is going to go out in 2010. But still, that’s after the CBO predicted that the economy would begin to recover – a piece of the report that, AFAIK, the CBO still stands behind. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc may be a logical fallacy, but it makes an excellent talking points memo.

    @66 Annalee:

    When I started reading the links, I was confused… I didn’t see anything about Stark opposing Medicare Part D. He just wanted it structured differently. I see this a lot with the Democrats and massive spending bills. Yes, there are complaints about them, not because the money shouldn’t be spent at all, but because they think we’re not spending enough and/or not attaching enough conditions to the money. (Hence all the democratic hemming and hawing over executive pay limits in the bailout package when a simple expansion of clawback provisions would have sufficed – Call it taking the captains down with their ships. Hence Teddy Kennedy complaining that NCLB was never “fully funded.”) The only person in Congress who seems to understand the difference is Ron Paul, and he has his own proprietary kind of crazy.

  65. The ENTIRE “war on terrorism” has cost $1 trillion — wars in two countries, a global crackdown on terrorist networks, all the intelligence, preventing attacks on US soil. It took Obama and the Dems a mere three weeks to nearly equal that amount of cash! As for the “Stimulus,” $50 mill for the NEA, subsidies for farm-raised fish, $850 mil for Amtrack, a train from Disneyland to Vegas, the repeal of welfare reform … all voted in without going through the committee process. No one read that thing. But they didn’t care to read it, did they? After all, it had nothing to do with “economic stimulus;” it had everything to do with every liberal pet project that’s been sitting on the shelf for the last 10 years. This economic disaster is nothing but an excuse — that’s why we had to do this NOW!

  66. So the Republicans go all Ron Paul for this last vote. Where was that for the last 8 years? Thanks a lot you jerks! A number of them went Ron Paul on the bailout too. As someone who wants some sort of fiscal responsibility from the government it’s a slap in the face.

    The stimulus or pork or whatever you call it is not enough, we will have two or three more. Don’t worry though, we won’t get a whiff of hyperinflation until $20 trillion.

    Boot Summers and Geithner, they helped enable the practices that got Wall Street in so much trouble. Make the SEC accountable and start prosecuting! Everything else Obama is good so far!

  67. You’re aware that “a train from Disneyland to Vegas” isn’t actually in the bill, right?

    Or if you’re not aware of that, you might want to rethink which sources you get your information from.

  68. Noah @82: Causus belli is the singular, he was looking for the plural. If it’s like bacillus it would be causii belli, but that doesn’t sound right.

    (Cue old guy saying: “In my day the nuns beat latin declensions and grammar into us with yardsticks…”)

    I’ll be happy if this stimulus bill satisfies the 80/20 rule. With 80% of the spending having other benefits besides just generating or preserving jobs. Of course there’s going to be a lot of pork in it. Considering that it was the first spending bill passed by Democrats in 8 years, every congressman in the capitol would be trying to get their pet projects in. Maybe it’ll help if you think of it as bacon rather than pork.

    As far as the value returned by spending when discussing things like highway funding for Puerto Rico, I can see your point: A highway project in Indiana (say the I80/90 corridor) would have a greater national benefit than funding a similar project in Florida or Hawaii simply because of its location, so you would think that the midwest would be given a greater share of highway funding. But just because Hawaii’s and Puerto Rico’s roads have no connection to the rest of the country doesn’t mean that those places should be shut out when it comes to infrastructure spending.

  69. Multiple causes for one war: casi belli.
    Multiple causes for more than one war: casi bellorum
    (BA in Latin: interdum utilis, occasionally useful)

  70. Maybe with the fairness doctorine we can finally shut them up.

    The world does not need to hear what they have to say. Does it?

    I’m more comfortable with letting folks decide for themselves what they do or don’t need to hear. My radio and TV came with factory-installed “off” and “change station/channel” buttons, for example, and I think I’d like to be the one who decides when and why those are pressed.

  71. Bozo @88: totally agree that no place should be shut out. I’m just curious why all the other states and territories have a lump-sum set of infrastructure specifications and Puerto Rico has its own seperate one.

    Bacon. I like it.

    Jim @85: I’m surprised that more people aren’t calling for Geithner’s head more loudly. I recently saw his non-plan for the banking industry referred to as “the most remarkable “dog ate my homework” excuse in the history of the U.S. financial markets” and thought that summed it up pretty well.

  72. abi @89,
    Actually, casus is 4th declension, so its plural is just casus (well, cāsūs) giving casus belli and casus bellorum.

  73. Marc,

    Well, so it is. Perseus’s Lewis & Short gave me an error and I relied on Wikipedia. But I see the University of Chicago has an online L&S.

    Silly me. I stand corrected.

  74. Actually, the plural of casus belli seems to be…casus belli!

    (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/casus+belli and google: plural of casus belli ).

    So essentially no one was right.

    (beaten to the punch, rats)

    I’m just curious why all the other states and territories have a lump-sum set of infrastructure specifications and Puerto Rico has its own seperate one.

    Are you sure they do?

  75. “Dude gets the most sweeping social engineering legislation of the last half century passed three weeks into his administration, despite the near-universal congressional opposition of one of the two major political parties in the United States, all the while maintaining his high popularity marks with the public, and he’s off to a bad start?”

    It completely depends on whether this social engineering is HELPFUL or not. Our President is fast, we agree. So was Hitler, but his programs were not helpful. (No, I am not comparing our President with Hitler. It is an object lesson on the difference between alacrity and consequence.)

    Fast is not enough. Will it be helpful running up more debt? Will it be helpful spending the borrowed money in these ways? How long before the money hits the streets?

    Fast legislation does not equal fast economic turnaround.

    Trey

  76. “I think shutting off speech is generally a very bad idea, Bill.”

    We agree. I think people who want to shut off free speech are idiots.

    Trey

  77. Trey:

    “No, I am not comparing our President with Hitler.”

    Well, yeah, you are, just in a limited and specific way. And while I get what you’re saying, when in doubt as to whether a comparison to Hitler will be taken the wrong way, assume the answer is “yes,” and therefore strive to make a different, less-immediately-push-buttony comparison.

    Likewise agreed that fast does not necessarily good; the point made here, as noted in the entry, is not whether the stimulus is the correct solution, but rather that Obama’s ability to pass such sweeping legislation in such a short time, and largely on his own terms, suggest that in terms of on-the-ground politics, he’s off to a rather good start, contrary to GOP talking points.

  78. You’re assuming the GOP has been in control for the last 8 years but in fact the Dems have had control of congress for a while. Just because the president was Republican doesn’t mean that party has control.

  79. So was Hitler

    So was Hitler? Hitler’s known for the speed with which he passed his legislation? Unless you’re talking about Fred Hitler, the former mayor of Nonexistentville, USA, who was renowned for his ability to get zoning changes effected, then I think we need some examples.*

    *Some names may have been made up for discussion purposes.

    You’re assuming the GOP has been in control for the last 8 years but in fact the Dems have had control of congress for a while. Just because the president was Republican doesn’t mean that party has control.

    That damn Democratic Congress, forcing President Bush into all those wars and tax cuts. “No, no, no,” cried Bush II, as he unwillingly signed yet another bill repealing the capital gains tax into law. “No, this is fiscal madness! We must honor the memory of Ronald Reagan by balancing the budget, as he did!”

    Later, he was seen sobbing disconsolately in the Oval Office when his carefully negotiated agreement with Saddam Hussein, Iran, and the UN, which would have averted war in the Middle East and opened *all* of Iraq to inspectors, was shot down by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. “Never get involved in a land war in (southwest) Asia,” he shouted, shaking his fist at the heavens.

  80. Pengwenn (#98); Gee, last I remember, the Republicans put on a VERY big party with the “Contract With America” put out by Newt Gingrich when–wait for it–the GOP controlled Congress during a good part of the Clinton years and on into the Bush years until the Dems took back over during the last few years of W’s term. I realize that the GOP has practically patented the method of blaming Democrats for everything (witness Karl Rove’s blaming of Clinton and the Dems Tuesday morning on Today during an interview for the ENTIRE financial meltdown with Fannie and Freddie and denied that the Bush Administration let up on regulating the financial industry–despite the Madoff case to the contrary), but even when Bush had the Congress in his pocket, they refused to do much of anything except for passing tax cuts and getting us into at least one unnecessary war.

  81. ” he’s off to a rather good start, contrary to GOP talking points.”

    He got more or less what he wanted, in a fairly expeditious manner. From a political standpoint, that’s pretty much the definition of success. Whether it’s a success from a policy standpoint, well, that’s a wait-and-see kind of thing. As he said, he won, so he’s getting his way. I, for one, hope it works, skeptical as I am….

    “That said, I’m also aware that in the last 30 years or so, the party that actually has a track record of deficit reduction is not the GOP”

    Strangely, we’ve done best with a Democrat in the White House, but Republican control of Congress (94-2000)and worse with a Republican in the White House and Democratic control of Congress (most of the rest of the time). But the worst of times have been when we had one-party control (Carter & Bush II). Hmmm….I don’t think I like where this analysis is going…..

  82. “I realize that the GOP has practically patented the method of blaming Democrats for everything”

    Well, expecting the other guys to embrace that method would be even too “unreality-based community” for the GOP…

  83. No, N. O’Brain, you’re not alone. A blog that resembles a transcription of the incoherent ramblings of a drug-addicted homeless man on a street corner seems to maybe agree with you, too. So there’s that.

  84. David wrote: “Hitler’s known for the speed with which he passed his legislation?”

    Don’t be obtuse. He is known for the speed with which he ruined Europe.

    Trey

  85. John wrote: “in terms of on-the-ground politics, he’s off to a rather good start, contrary to GOP talking points.”

    Again John, I concede the fact that he has been speedy. Which way this legislation will take us is the important thing.

    And John, I am a politically conservative Evangelical Christian and I do not read the Republican talking points! I suggest you and my peers here do the same.

    Trey

  86. You know what, let’s stop all Hitler analogies and discussion in this thread right now. Bringing in the Hitler comparison in the first place was stupid, and continuing the discussion is equally so.

    Trey, the next time you have the thought to use Hitler in reference to Obama, don’t, or at the very least, don’t do it here.

  87. I am a politically conservative Evangelical Christian and I do not read the Republican talking points!

    Strange that you repeat them so accurately, then.

  88. Well David, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I leave it to you to assign which, if any of us are broken. 8)

    Trey

  89. John, it is your blog, you are the boss.

    I disagree that it was stupid, that was what the disclaimer was for! But, as I said, no more bringing up he who must not be named. Does this apply to ALL political comparisons? Trey – who is hoping so

  90. Seriously David, I quit the Republicans when they abandoned the political ideas we used to have in common. They spend too much money, they think government can actually fix things, and way too many of them are crooks. I honestly see little difference between them and the Democrats except for who has bought and paid for them. Now they are talking as if some of those conservative political values are important to them, but I remember when they were in charge. They will not get me back.

    Trey

  91. Trey, just because you say you aren’t doing something, doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it. As noted, you did in fact make a comparison; saying you didn’t doesn’t mean anything, other than possibly suggesting you were trying to get away with something by saying you weren’t doing it. And given the massive negative connotations of Hitler in just about any possible context, yes, bringing him up was really stupid.

    And yes, let’s assume that unless the discussion is directly involving a) World War II or b) genocidal fuckheaded dictators, it’s never a good idea to invoke Hitler in anything.

  92. I quit the Republicans when they abandoned the political ideas we used to have in common. They spend too much money, they think government can actually fix things, and way too many of them are crooks

    They never weren’t. Unless you’re older than I think, you’ve never been an adult under a Republican President who 1) balanced the budget, 2) didn’t use government to try and change society around to the way they want it, 3) ‘way too many’ is subjective, but Nixon sets the standard on that one, doesn’t he.

    Declension narratives are fun, but rarely true.

  93. David wrote: “Declension narratives” then my eyes got fuzzy! David, what is a declension narrative?

    And I am 49.

    And subjectivity is the coin of conversation and intimacy!

    Really, I am dying to know what declension narratives means.

    Trey

  94. I will say “Fred Hitler” would be an even harder name to overcome in politics than “Barack Obama” was!

  95. But Silbey, I prefer that David define it! The intertubes are cool and all, but I bet David would make a better friend. Or perhaps you would. So what is a declension narrative?

    Trey

  96. But Silbey, I prefer that David define it! The intertubes are cool and all, but I bet David would make a better friend. Or perhaps you would. So what is a declension narrative?

    In case you haven’t guessed, we are one and the same. In any case, the link does the explanation just fine, thanks.

    Work through it and report back. There’ll be a quiz.

    So your Republican Presidents have been Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. Not a balanced budget among them.

  97. However, bear in mind that spending & taxing is Congress’s job. Somethng that Democrats keep conviently forgetting

  98. The 1969 Federal Budget had a surplus. Chalk one up for Nixon.

    You’re correct. My apologies for the error. Of course, I note that Nixon then took us right back into deficit for the remaining years of his Presidency. So Trey’s been alive for one year of Republican surplus in his 49. That’s some fiscal conservatism we’ve got going here.

    However, bear in mind that spending & taxing is Congress’s job. Somethng that Democrats keep conviently forgetting

    So it was all those Republican presidential vetoes that the Democratic Congress overturned to spend America into deficit, right?

    No, the truth is that Republican fiscal conservatism has been a myth since at least Eisenhower and probably before that. Add in Hoover and the inescapable conclusion is that y’all just aren’t good with money.

  99. Budgets get balanced, historically, when Democrats control one branch and Republicans control the other. 1994-2000 fiscal responsibility was the result of a Republican Congress in opposition to a Democrat President. Nixon’s 69 was vice versa. All branches being Democrats or all Republicans results in the party in charge trying to buy itself a “permenant” majority. That usually does not work out too well. Just ask the Republicans. I suspect the Democrats will shortly be learning the same lesson.

  100. That’s an interesting point, David, and one I hadn’t thought of. It does raise the question, though – if Republican dogma adulates small government and fiscal responsibility, why are they so bad at it? The people in the party have been replaced at least once since Eisenhower, so it can’t be the fault of individual bad apples. What is it in the ideology, then, that produces such a profound inability to handle large sums of money?

  101. Budgets get balanced, historically, when Democrats control one branch and Republicans control the other

    I seriously doubt if there’s enough of a sample to declare this as an authoritative law, and I would bet there are a significant number of counterexamples, as well.

    What is it in the ideology, then, that produces such a profound inability to handle large sums of money?

    Americans love spending and hate taxes. Cutting spending sounds great until it’s your library/police force/road crew/military that’s getting cut.

    The Republican electoral message of the last two generations has been based on cutting taxes and claiming to cut spending. The first has been true and the second not, with the result being deficits. It’s a successful electoral strategy, if nothing else.

  102. A few points regarding the GOP-bashing:

    1) I think many of you have probably not been paying attention to the intramural conflict in the GOP over “big government conservatism”. Many were dissatisfied with Bush over spending and disgusted with the way the GOP-led congress behaved. That said, a return to first principles, even if late in the game, is welcome. Many feel that McCain did a piss-poor job of articulating a vision of a limited federal government in his Presidential campaign (probably because he does not share that vision). So to say “where do conservatives get off talking about deficits” is a fair criticism to a point, but misses the fact that this interest in smaller government is not being simply trotted out for the sake of politics.

    2) As for the politics, the GOP may as well oppose this spendulous package. They were shut out in writing it, Obama will claim any credit for a recovery, and “bipartisan” is simply being used as a fig leaf to try to spread some blame if the economy tanks. We’ve had enough crap sandwiches for one election cycle, thanks. My biggest criticism is that the GOP was unable to coalesce around a single alternative. Politically, Obama was able to paint them as opposed to _any_ bill, when in reality they were opposed to _this_ bloated porkstrositiy.

    3) Finally, regarding the “bad start”, I’ll give you one person’s view:

    This bill was crafted largely by Pelosi and Reid, and was used as a Trojan Horse in which to stuff every bit of patronage and pork that was possible under the cover of the current crisis (not to mention provisions whish appear to remove key work requirements from Clinton’s welfare reform). It will be slow to infuse money, negating one key provision of any “stimulus”, and most of the spending will be in the public sector (the least efficient at job creation). The “green jobs” baloney is simply going to waste labor that could go in more productive areas, and the relative inattention to cheaper sources of North American fossil fuel and nuclear power will make energy more expensive and a recovery slower. The debt burden will be a drag for some time to come.

    We are turning what was a cyclical downturn magnified by a credit crunch (brought on by government intrusion into the mortgage market and subsequent housing boom/bust) into a situation where nobody really knows where the floor is. Obama’s fear-mongering certainly hasn’t helped. This bill, at best, will create a bunch of government jobs with non-market salaries and unsustainable pensions. If you don’t believe me, see the DJIA.

    John, you and others mentioned the Iraq War. Without getting into the merits of it, at least that was openly debated at length before the vote. This POS was jammed through with little debate and minimal public discussion. That’s not how Obama claimed he would govern. I think this fight has left him more bloodied than you and your readers seem to think (although I admit that the polls show his popularity remaining high). The above, combined with a piss-poor nominee vetting process and some waffling on other decisions is why I (not speaking for McCain) am not impressed by Obama’s first month.

  103. That said, a return to first principles, even if late in the game, is welcome.

    First principles of whom? No GOP President has balanced the budget except for one (1) year of Nixon. At some point, “small government” starts to look a lot like PR fluff.

    They were shut out in writing it,

    They were not shut out in writing it. Obama went out of his way to meet with Republicans. The House GOP shut themselves out of writing it as did the majority of GOP Senators.

    Your #3 is a mishmash of GOP talking points impressive in their unoriginality. But in order: 1) no, it wasn’t put together by Pelosi and Reid, 2) No, it won’t be slow to infuse money, 3) Cyclical downtown: you, like other Republicans, are channeling Herbert Hoover, 4) Yeah, I note that the Iraq War debate was conducted in an honest and truthful way; no fear mongering about WMDs there.

  104. David,

    The conference committee meeting was a closed door session that included only the three Republicans who voted for the bill.

    From Obama’s website:

    “End the Practice of Writing Legislation Behind Closed Doors: As president, Barack Obama will restore the American people’s trust in their government by making government more open and transparent. Obama will work to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees, to be conducted in public.”

    Didn’t take long to flip on that one.

  105. Goodness David, if I didn’t know better, I would think you were a partisan Democrat, defending the honor of the wonderful, perfect donkeys against the depredations of the nasty evil Elephants. But no, I’m sure you’re just an unbiased observer with no dog in the fight. LOL. Keep drinkin’ the kool-aid if it feels good to ya…..

  106. The conference committee meeting was a closed door session that included only the three Republicans who voted for the bill.

    This was long after Obama had met with House Republicans and long after the Republicans had voted unanimously against the bill in the House and all-but-3 in the Senate. Obama reached out to them, they voted against the bill, and at that point forfeited any right to have further say in it. (And by the way, you seem to be implying that Snowe, Specter, and Collins aren’t Republicans.)

    As the conference committee, it was so entirely closed and confidential that it was broadcast on C-SPAN: http://www.cspan.org/Watch/watch.aspx?MediaId=Congress-A-15353

    Goodness David, if I didn’t know better…blah blah blah

    Goodness, MuleFace, if I didn’t know better, I would think that you were avoiding dealing with my examples because you have no counter-argument. But I’m sure that’s not true; I’m sure you can come up with a GOP President who has balanced the budget since 1960 (except Nixon 1969).

  107. David,

    Did you even look at your own link?

    “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced a tentative agreement has been reached on the economic stimulus bill by House & Senate conferees.”

    That was a press conference, not the meeting where the agreement was reached

  108. ZBBM @ 133

    The 3 republicans who might actually, ahem, want to produce a bill? As apposed to the strident pack of self-proclaimed obstrutionists? Feh.

    Also, what part of “will work to” did you not understand? He’s been a bit busy lately. For me, I would like to see the republican-abused practice of anonymous holds abolished first.

  109. Can someone explain to me the meaning of
    “a cyclical downturn magnified by a credit crunch (brought on by government intrusion into the mortgage market” ?

    I’m mystified how government intrusion could be blamed for this. Here I thought it had been brought on by deregulating the greedy bankers.

  110. Gee, Zanzibar, it took you six minutes to respond to my earlier post. Now, when you’re embarrassingly wrong, all we get are crickets.

    Tweet. Tweet.

  111. Easy there David. I tend to agree with your points. But a 40 minute delay in replying isn’t too surprising. People do have lives.

    That said, the “Wah, he’s not listening to us” whining really is pretty silly. Republicans who were interested in working with Obama were accepted. Republicans who took a “I hope this fails” stance, or pushed a 100% tax cut amendment, (or concentrated on minutae like prohibiting “zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas”) were ignored.

    Look, Democrats wanted a stimulus in spending bill. Republicans didn’t. Since Democrats convincingly won the last election, they put their policy into place. You don’t have to like or agree with that, but whining about it is just silly. And there’s no fig leaf. If the economy continues to tank for the next couple of years, fingers will be legitmately pointed at people with (D) after their names on ballots.

    And re Zanzibar’s (fun name!) point 3: That really reads like a stew of talking points. We’ll be “wasting labor” on green projects? Y’know, with over 2 million people out of jobs in the last few months I think labor shortages are the least of our worries.

    And this is just a “cyclical downturn”? Right, because “the fundamentals of our economy are strong” and this is just a “mental recession.” Those talking points flopped miserably six months ago. I’m all for recycling. But if you’re going to scrap that garbage off the floor, at least wipe it off before you ask us to swallow it.

  112. CJ,

    Well, there are book written about this, and opinions vary. No doubt there is ample blame to go around. My reading on the banking crisis is that aggressive (read “foolish”)lending policies pursued by FM/FM greatly contributed to an overvaluation of the housing market. These overvalued assets became “toxic” as the housing bubble burst, leading to a liquidity crisis. The liquidity crisis necessitated the first bailout, and also set a tone that businesses that followed poor practices would be rescued (see “Big Three”
    ). You may look at that and see “greedy bankers” (seriously? “brought on by greedy bankers”? if I’m missing sublte sarcasm, I apologize), I see yet another example of inefficiencies brought on by government intervention.

    David,

    Look at your original link, about minute 16, and you’ll see Rep Jerry Lewis (R) complaining about how the conference is just a rubber stamp for the bill put together behind closed doors. I’d think, since we both agreed earlier that Republicans were shut out of the writing of the final joint bill (you thinking this is right and good, me less so), the presence of Republicans would be a tip off that this was not the working meeting.

    And crickets don’t go tweet. Crickets chirp. Birds tweet.

  113. Jon,

    Thanks for defending my right to a life. Re: the name – as per the Seuss poem, at the McCave’s and on the internet comment boards, there are “too many Daves”.

    Perhaps my use of “waste” implied that I think there is no value to “green” jobs. That is not true, merely that these jobs, since they could be created in the private sector if there was a demand, are by definition not the most efficient use of labor. The reductio ad absurdum, paying people to dig and fill holes, is still work. Mandating the use of more expensive alternative fuels and then bragging about creating jobs in the alternative fuel industry is just a more complicated version. Bottom line, until fuel costs rise again to levels even higher than last summer, creating jobs in that industry will require a large degree of government intervention (which I’d call waste). Once the cost of energy from alternative sources drops a great deal or the price of petrol energy rises, there will be need for government to intervene.

    Is there a role for government investment in the science of alternative fuels? Sure. But my impression is that Obama and Pelosi want a much higher percentage of spending in this realm (payoff will be many years later) and much less in terms of domestic oil exploration, clean coal, nuclear, and other sources that have a higher immediate bang for the buck.

    Well, historically, 6 years of expansion followed by downturn is not evidence of poor fundamentals. Whatever you think of the fundamentals, however, I don’t think the cause of the downturn was too little goverment spending.

  114. David wrote: “At some point, “small government” starts to look a lot like PR fluff.”

    Is that your declension narrative? Should I ignore it?

    Or are you sharing your own narrative and I should read and think about it in respect to your humanity?

    I am leaning toward the latter, but then I am funny that way. How about returning the favor?

    That is why I left the Republicans. Like you, I decided that the small government stuff was puffery. It looks like we agree on that after all. Small universe. 8)

    Trey

  115. Look at your original link, about minute 16, and you’ll see Rep Jerry Lewis (R) complaining about how the conference is just a rubber stamp for the bill put together behind closed doors.

    So you’ve moved off the “conference wasn’t open” to the “conference was open but everything got done before hand” argument?

    And forgive me if I don’t take seriously the complaints of a GOP house member, especially since the Republican caucus has decided that one of their primary talking points was “we weren’t consulted.” Did Obama meet with the GOP house members or not?

    I’d think, since we both agreed earlier that Republicans were shut out of the writing of the final joint bill

    What I actually said was that most of the Republicans shut themselves out of the final bill. And so you’ve conceded that Specter, Snowe, and Collins aren’t Republicans?

    And crickets don’t go tweet. Crickets chirp. Birds tweet.

    Crickets are tougher in my neck of the woods.

    Trey, you originally said: I quit the Republicans when they abandoned the political ideas we used to have in common

    I was disabusing you of the idea that they ever had those ideas.

  116. Trey, I’m going to risk the LMoC:

    [LMoC indeed comes down on subject I've warned not to bring up again in the thread, but the rest of the comment can stay -- JS]

    ZBBMF, are you saying that unemployment is the most efficient use of labor? ‘Cause that’s what the alternative is right now. If so, then maybe maximal efficiency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    Apart from that “green” energy usefulness might be missed by the market for two reasons. First, greenhouse gas emissions are an uncaptured externality. Absent government intervention, such emissions won’t get priced by the market until much too late, if ever.

    Second, the market’s kinda broken right now. Assuming the economy recovers, the price of energy is going right back up. There’s just not enough to go around. So why isn’t some smart entrepeneur working on the problem already? Why doesn’t he or she just get a loan and…

    I’m becoming somewhat skeptical of the magical powers of a free market. There are problems the market deals with quite well. But it’s not the best tool for every problem. One big exception is where we already have some government intervention. Take health care: In a “perfect” free market, we might get efficient health care, at the cost of lots of dead or sick people, mostly poor. Since we don’t want that we insert government mandates, like requiring emergency rooms to treat sick people. Now the true argument isn’t between free marketeers and intervention, but between various flavors of intervention.

    The same is generally true for economic upheavals like the one we’re going through. You may disagree in this case, but a clear majority see a depression as something requiring government intervention, even at the cost of such inefficiencies as putting people to work on “green” technology instead of leaving them unemployed.

    Wow, got off on a ranty tangent, didn’t I? Back to work!

  117. Ed Brayton quipped, half-seriously, on his ScienceBlog:

    This is amusing. It seems those evil Democrats cleverly converted the stimulus bill into a PDF file in order to prevent Rush from searching through the document:

    LIMBAUGH: In addition, they have reformatted the bill — they’ve made it a PDF file when they posted it. Now, for those of you that don’t use computers, basically what that means is that it cannot be keyword searched. A PDF file is essentially a picture of a page. And, so, you can read every page, but you cannot keyword search it. It’s not a text file as legislation normally is as posted on these public websites. They don’t want anybody knowing what’s in this; they want it happening as fast as possible so nobody can know what’s in it.

    You’d think with all the viagra he takes he’d have a kid by now who could tell him what that box at the top of a PDF file that says “find” means.

  118. ZB-BM @ 131: “My reading on the banking crisis is that aggressive (read “foolish”)lending policies pursued by FM/FM greatly contributed to an overvaluation of the housing market.”

    This is, unfortunately, nothing but revisionist balderdash. In the real world, FM/FM got in trouble for accounting scandals way back at the beginning of the run up, and was largely unable to pursue all those fancy new financial instruments, since there were a bunch of regulators insisting they come up with books that came at least somewhat vaguely near being auditable. Towards the tail-end of the boom, when they had finally put most of these scandals behind them, they did indeed get involved in the sub-prime mess, but that was mostly out of fear that they would become uncompetitive with the rest of the industry if they didn’t (yay free markets!). After it became clear that the housing market had peaked and people were starting to get worried what the downturn would look like, many Democrats in Congress did indeed demand that they buy more sub-prime loans, but FM/FM mostly ignored them. It was already too late, though: they had jumped on the bubble at exactly the wrong time. That in no way, however, implies that they caused the bubble. But at this point Republicans decided they needed a scapegoat that fit with the lip-service they pay to hating big government, and a talking point was born. Like many Republican talking points, it has little to no basis in actual fact, but it sure sounds good if you don’t actually know anything.

    By the way, as part of the secondary market, FM/FM don’t actually lend anything themselves. They buy loans made by others in the primary market (who were the ones with the poor lending policies) by either using the cheap debt afforded by their good credit rating (and the implied government backing they had, which in the end turned out to be more than implied) or by pooling them and selling MBSs backed by them, which also must be rated. If you want an example of actual government interference which contributed to the problem, look at the SEC rules which require that anyone who wants to sell bonds get them rated by two Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (of which there are a total of seven, because it’s very difficult to become one), trading one conflict of interest (previously the buyer usually commissioned ratings, preferring that they be lower so they could get a higher return) for a much worse one (now the seller commissions the ratings from a much smaller pool of ratings agencies, preferring they be higher so they can sell riskier investments).

    Of course, none of that would have mattered if there hadn’t been a plethora of easy credit ready to finance any deal that made even marginal sense on paper, regardless of what it looked like in reality. CJ @ 139 seems to think if we had merely regulated the housing market or the derivatives markets well enough, all of this could have been avoided. But if the opportunities in those markets had not existed, the money would simply have gone somewhere else. Unless you think it’s possible to write bullet-proof regulations for anything anyone will ever think of ever, you can’t defend against the destructive power of large amounts of leverage. Not that that’s an excuse for failing to regulate derivatives basically at all, but the reason the derivatives market is so large is precisely because it’s unregulated.

  119. Jon,

    i don’t think the choice is green jobs or unemployment. i think a market, while not perfect, has a much better track record than government at picking winners and reacting to market trends.

    The private sector is investing in green tech at a rate that I would argue is appropriate, since it’s main payoff comes with either sky high oil, dramatic breakthroughs that push the cost per unit well below oil (as it becomes available, oil will drop in price and emerging markets will simply use more of whatever is cheaper, also blunting the negative externality benefit) or the negative externalities are much more pronounced that currently seem to be in evidence. Even in anthropogenic global warming is real, there are much better ways to spend the dollars. Making green jobs a focus for employment efforst is one step better than make work.

    David,

    We are talking about two difference conferences. I think it was pretty clear that I was talking about the conference committee where the bill was, y’know, written. You have been linking the press conference where they announced the bill. Controversy/ off.

    Did Obama meet with Republican? Sure. Was the meeting an open discussion of ideas meant to craft a bipartisan solution to a crisis? In my opinion, not so much. Politico captured the essence when they, among others, reported on Obama’s “I won” response to GOP objections to spending in the bill.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17862.html

    Now, you may think that is well and good, and Obama and his party did win. Please forgive me, though, if I am underwhelmed by Obama’s efforts to work with the opposition.

    What is it with the Snowe/Collins/Spectre meme? As I noted in my post and you did in your excerpt of that post, the compromise was drafted in a conference that included those three as the only Republicans. Not sure what the controversy is, but if it makes you happy, I will publicly admit that those three Republican Senators are, in fact, Republicans.

  120. Did Obama meet with Republican? Sure. Was the meeting an open discussion of ideas meant to craft a bipartisan solution to a crisis? In my opinion, not so much. Politico captured the essence when they, among others, reported on Obama’s “I won” response to GOP objections to spending in the bill.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17862.html

    Now, you may think that is well and good, and Obama and his party did win. Please forgive me, though, if I am underwhelmed by Obama’s efforts to work with the opposition.

    Bipartisan does NOT mean that both sides HAVE to be able to contribute to a bill. And I think you highly exaggerate the seriousness of Republican efforts to contribute to the stimulus bill, particularly when stimulus, per force, HAS to mean spending. Some Republican ideas, were, indeed, added to the bill; it is highly disingenuous to say that this wasn’t bipartisan if not enough of those ideas were included.

  121. Even in anthropogenic global warming is real

    Oh good. So you’re from the insane wing of the GOP, then? Excellent.

    about the conference committee where the bill was, y’know, written. You have been linking the press conference where they announced the bill. Controversy/ off.

    No, I haven’t, and it’s stupid of you to repeatedly insist that I have. The conference I linked to was the conference between the House and the Senate that resolved the issues between the two bills. The one that you said was closed.

    It turns out that it was so closed that they broadcast it on C-SPAN.

    (This is what I mean with talking points. The GOP decides that one of the messages that they’re going to push is the “closed” meme and you buy and repeat it so uncritically that you don’t even bother to check easily available sources. Gullible is the kind word).

    The *press* conference is an entirely different video.

    What is it with the Snowe/Collins/Spectre meme?

    You were insisting that the Republicans weren’t consulted. Since Snowe/Collins and Spectre *were* consulted, I assumed that you thought they weren’t Republicans.

    You’re conceding that Republicans *were* consulted? That’s nice.

  122. David,

    Seriously, are you insisting that that 1 hour video with all those Republicans was where the decisions as to what to include in the bill were made? That both untrue and laughable. As dim a view of the bill as I have, even I don’t think that the compromise bill was crafted in under an hour.

    Perhaps I have been imprecise in my language, but I’m talking about the closed-door working committee meeting where the compromise legislation was written. You keep referring to different, open meeting.

    Oh, btw, the source for my “closed” meme was noted RNC talking point puppet, Slate:

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2210698

    key graf:

    “In this case, not only is the end product ragged—some of the elements aren’t terribly stimulative—but the means were ugly. The differences between the House and Senate bills were reconciled mostly in secret by House and Senate Democratic leaders, three Northeastern Republicans, and White House aides. This is hardly unusual for Washington—which is precisely the problem: It’s not the change Obama promised.”

    Hope that helped clear up any confusion.

  123. ZBBMF,

    “i don’t think the choice is green jobs or unemployment.”

    At this point, there are many millions of unemployed. For them, the choice very clearly is between green (or other government stimulus created) jobs and no jobs. Either I’m missing the point you’re making, or this is on of those “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts” things.

    “Even in anthropogenic global warming is real, there are much better ways to spend the dollars.”

    Really? That bald statement seems to at least require some argumentation to support it. Again, maybe I’m misunderstanding. Are you claiming that Obama’s proposals aren’t the best way to combat AGW? That’s possible, but I’d like to hear why you think so. Otherwise, it sounds like you’re just saying it’s not worth even trying.

    Oh, and…

    *looks around Marty Feldman style* Blitzkreig! *Ducks into the castle one step ahead of the mallet.*

  124. Seriously, are you insisting that that 1 hour video with all those Republicans was where the decisions as to what to include in the bill were made?

    You made the big argument about it being a closed meeting. It wasn’t, and now you’ve spent several posts wiggling around on the hook. Just admit it, change your argument, and move on.

    If you want to assert that the negotiating got done elsewhere, well, that’s a different assertion that your original one. Which was wrong. Have I mentioned that? Wrong. With extra wrongness.

    the source for my “closed” meme was noted RNC talking point puppet, Slate

    An article which I note includes the phrase “Northeast Republicans.” In service of one argument, you’ve undercut your other one. Sounds like the Republicans were intimately involved in this one. Not the Republicans you wanted, but…

    Hope that helped clear up any confusion.

    It did. You clarified that your argument is 1) the process was secret and closed except that they broadcast it on C-SPAN, and 2) the Republicans weren’t consulted except for the actual Republicans that were consulted.

    Much clearer.

  125. David,

    Dude, try decaf.

    Jon,

    I think there are other choices on the table beside “other government created jobs”. (One proposal as a fer’ instance: dropping the social security withholding for employee and employer would arguably have gotten money more quickly into the hands of those who could hire and do so more effectively.)

    Even if I accept your premise, that only the govt can create jobs now, I’d argue that green is not the most efficient use of the new debt we are taking on, since the ROI is so far off. Putting more into infrastructure (which I admit is part of the plan), oil, nuclear, or any of a host of other areas where the obstacle to hiring is mainly lack of funds, not lack of funds and lack of a market.

    Regarding AGW. I know this is a hot button, and probably should not have thrown it into a GOP bashing/Iitler-Hay thread. My opinion:

    1) CO2 can absorb light of certain wavelengths, so there is an undeniable degree to which it can contribute to warming the planet.

    2) The current models take inadequate account of solar and ocean cycles.

    3) I suspect that there has been widespread publication bias with respect to dissenting opinions, in terms of projects undertaken, grants awarded, and acceptance for publication. There are also allegations of fraud and lack of transparency regarding data that constitute key components of the IPCC climate model. These are non-trivial attacks on the core of the model, and until they are resolved, I think taking radical action would be potentially catastrophic, much more damaging than the problem that it is intended to correct.

    4) The popular understanding of the problem is simplistic and has approached the level of religious conviction among many adherents. (Think Al Gore calling the science of AGW “settled” and comparing dissenters to Flat Earth Society members)

    5) As pointed out by Bjorn Lomborg, among others, even assuming that current models of AGW are correct, trashing the global economy and diverting resources from other areas (such as malaria prevention) will result in a net increase in human suffering compared to other more reasonable uses of resources (Google “bjorn lomborg lecture” for a piece he did for Reason TV).

    Finally, I predict that the current global downturn will bring about a temporary end to serious consideration of radical reductions in economic growth to stem AGW. I think we will look back on that as a luxury of boom times, with no place in a global recession.

    That’s all off the cuff and perhaps lacking in nuance, but it should be enough to give an idea about my position. I’m happy to dicuss this reasonably with reasonable people, maybe even with David.

  126. Dude, try decaf.

    It’s a pretty good sign that you’re losing an argument if you have to resort to meta-comments like that one.

    Oh, and cute putting the comment you knew would get whacked into a separate post.

  127. ZBBMF,

    Oy, now you’ve done it. This thread may be permanently derailed. Lemme try to avoid that. You said, “Even if anthropogenic global warming is real, there are much better ways to spend the dollars.” When I questioned that, you went into a long (and probably thread-derailing) argument about how AGW is not real.

    For what it’s worth, I strongly disagree with you. But regardless, I’d like to see you either defend or retract your original contention that it’s not worth dealing with the threat of AGW assuming it is real.

    I think there are other choices on the table beside “other government created jobs”. (One proposal as a fer’ instance: dropping the social security withholding for employee and employer would arguably have gotten money more quickly into the hands of those who could hire and do so more effectively.)

    No that’s not on the table, because no Republicans put it there. As I said way upthread, there are legitimate conservative economic arguments to be made. But Republicans aren’t making them.

    And in most cases employers aren’t laying off workers because they don’t have enough money to pay them. They’re laying off workers because no one is buying their products. We’re facing a failure of demand, not supply. Helping World Wide Widgets make more widgets isn’t going to do any good if no one’s buying.

  128. John,

    I promise, no more coded references to dictators, at least in this thread.

    Jon,

    That thread-jack doesn’t say AGW is not real. Nobody is trying to deny that CO2 can’t absorb infrared on certain wavelengths and is, by definition, a “greenhouse gas”. I _do_ question the integrity of the science that informs the current models. However, what I am mainly saying that putting scant resources into fighting AGW is the wrong fight at the wrong time.

    Re: the tax cut: I’m referring to the meta-table of all possible bills. And some on the right were proposing just that. Not sure if it ever got to the level of the House/Senate, as it is clearly not the kind of stimulus Obama and Pelosi would support.

    The last point is a bit of the ol’ chicken and egg. If there was more hiring and higher wages, demand would increase, no? I’m not questioning the merits of government intervention, per se. I just think this bill makes too much use of government and too little of the private sector.

  129. If there was more hiring and higher wages, demand would increase, no?

    Not necessarily, especially since humans are very risk aversive( as shown by Kahnman&Tversky), and the current economic environment is very unstable. Spending, and thus demand, isn’t likely to scale up together with wages, at least not on any immediate basis. In addition, giving employers the resources to pay more doesn’t necessarily means they will pay more, both because it isn’t in their short term best interest and because of the same risk aversion and uncertainty.

  130. AntonGarou,

    Fair points. I think, in general, the efficiencies in allocation of resources by the distributed network of taxpayers (versus a more centralized command and control) make up for this practice. Also, I think the relative inability to turn off the govt spending (compared to tax cuts) tends to create larger, more intrusive government over time(although I think Obama regards this as a feature, not a bug).

  131. ZBBMF,

    That thread-jack doesn’t say AGW is not real. Nobody is trying to deny that CO2 can’t absorb infrared on certain wavelengths and is, by definition, a “greenhouse gas”.

    Sorry, no sale. Saying “AGW is real” doesn’t just mean admitting that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It means admitting that there is actually anthropogenic global warming. That the climate of the planet is being significantly altered by human activity. Saying “AGW is real, but I question the science that indicates that it’s real” is self-contradictory.

    Re: the tax cut: I’m referring to the meta-table of all possible bills.

    If you’ve stepped back to arguing that this isn’t the best of all possible bills, then I wouldn’t disagree. No one’s claiming this is perfection. Just better than any offered alternatives. (See below)

    And some on the right were proposing just that. Not sure if it ever got to the level of the House/Senate, as it is clearly not the kind of stimulus Obama and Pelosi would support.

    Irrelevant cheap shot. Plenty of really goofy stuff got proposed despite Obama & Pelosi’s lack of support. That’s why most Republicans had so little input: Because they wasted their time with amendments to slash capital gains taxes, or keep the stimulus from being spent on zero gravity chairs instead of offering real policy suggestions.

    The last point is a bit of the ol’ chicken and egg. If there was more hiring and higher wages, demand would increase, no?

    Yes, absolutely. If employers start hiring, and wages go up, then demand will go up. But who’s going to be the first one to take that step? No sensible employer would start hiring on the hope that lots of other employers will follow suit and spark a recovery. That’s why the public sector needs to get the ball rolling.

  132. Jon,

    “It means admitting that there is actually anthropogenic global warming. That the climate of the planet is being significantly altered by human activity.”

    The key differnece I have with you is the use of the word “significantly”. (for reasons I belabored above) AGW could be both real and trivial, real but significant only in the distant future, or real and an existential crisis for life on the planet. It could also be real and forestalling your next regularly scheduled ice age. I put it somewhere between choice 1 and 2.

  133. ZBBM @ 164

    Please tell me (if)when you last saw the Republican party advocate the ending of *any* tax cuts? I would say “for the rich” but that would be superfluous.

    derf @ 149

    The housing mess would have been a short term problem at worst without the, entirely unregulated, derivatives scam. Housing would have followed the track that overbuilding office space and strip malls in the 90s in AZ did. Price drops, people build other things, eventually the surplus gets bought up at a lower price and things get back to normal. Also, without the derivatives market to sell them to the Countrywide’s and such would not have been lying as many people as possible into inappropriate loans in the first place.

  134. General observation: if there had been no substantative input from the ‘party of no’, why are 5 Repub Senators bragging to their states about the goodies they got into the bill while voting against it?

  135. Can someone please explain how pretty much every war up until Afghanistan and Iraq were considered good for the US economy, some even credited for bringing the country out of serious economic problems, while Afghanistan and Iraq are now thought to be bad for the economy? Has something changed, besides popular opinion?

  136. I only mentioned Rush Limbaugh because:
    (1) I though the PDF thing was geeky and funny;
    (2) I see a power vacuum in the GOP, and Rush (who IS very entertaining) is able to fill it, for now, as some sort of de facto Party leader (if you disagree, who is more influential? Quoted more by friends and foes alike? McCain? Palin? Steele? C’mon.);
    (3) My GOP friends (well, some of them) agree with the above, and counter with a claim that the Democratic party (none of them said “Democrat party”) has a similar vacuum at the top. Well, when you have the White House and both houses of Congress for at least 2 years, is “party leadership” so essential as to be agreed on unanimously?
    (4) I can’t figure out what the GOP in Sacramento is doing while California slides into the ocean of red ink, ousting their leader who was wavering towards compromise, and voting unanimously that (as I interpret it) better for the world’s #5 economy to go bankrupt than to vote for any tax increase. I mean, party unity is fine and dandy, but, hey, a $42 Billion (at least) hole in the budget, and no official budget with any fix, is that what anyone really wants?
    (5) Maybe they (the CA GOP) are hoping for a Proposition voted on by the citizens to eliminate the supermajority requirement to raise taxes, then Democrats raise taxes, and it doesn’t work, bingo! GOP can now be voted in as the failed Dems are thrown out? Or what?
    (6) Most of you don’t care about California any more than you care about pseudodebates on anthropic global warming, but I suggest that you do: it’s 1/5 of the USA by people and wealth, and if it goes belly up, how can Obama et al fix the economy of the other 4/5 of the USA?

  137. Stephen @ 170

    Massive treasury theft by no-bid cost-plus contracts resulting in deaths, poisonings, sickness and tons of waste and property damage. And 2 perpetual endless, victory-conditionless wars without raising taxes (indeed, while massive tax cuts were enacted to benefit the wealthy and large corporations) and run the wars on the country’s credit card. Simple really.

  138. Jonathan,

    Thanks for the Rush info. I did find it amusing. Re California, the LAT claims that Arnie & the Dems (how’s that for a band name?) found a single Republican willing to go along. There’s supposed to be a vote this morning. Fingers crossed.

    ZBBMF,

    *sigh* I begin to see why David got so frustrated. Now you’re essentially claiming you said “Even if AGW is real (for values of “real” meaning “having no actual effect”)…” Come on, that’s just silly. Look, you were quickly typing a blog comment and you went a bit farther out on a limb than you intended. No biggie, we all do it. Time to admit it and move on.

    And how about that Obama? He’s been rolling along like he’s got Rommel, von Manstein, and Guderian working for him! :)

  139. Nargel @ 167: My point was not that derivatives were not a huge problem. They were and are. My point was not that derivatives shouldn’t be regulated. They should be. My point was that the only reason so much money was put into derivatives was because they were unregulated. If they had been regulated, someone would’ve invented some new instrument that wasn’t to put all that money into, or found some loophole in existing regulations, or come up with some other scheme that no regulator could possibly predict. All the people crying that if only we had had more regulation all of these problems could have been avoided are trying to treat the symptoms (housing and derivatives market abuses), not the disease (easy credit).

    Stephen @ 170: Wars are generally bad for the global economy as a whole. Like the aforementioned digging holes and filling them in, every dollar spent on bullets used to kill people can’t be spent on something else that’s actually productive. The guy you shot ain’t producing so much anymore, either. The USA made out pretty good in WWI and WWII because there was little actual fighting done here, while most of the manufacturing base in Europe (and later Japan) was totally destroyed. Also, after WWI the USA became the financial center of the world since the former center (the UK) had become a huge debtor nation along with the rest of Europe (sound familiar?). In fact, the horrible economic conditions in Germany were one of the big contributing factors to Hitler’s rise to power.

    I’m not sure why you think all those other wars were considered good. The Democrats were roundly criticized for wasting $2bln/month in Vietnam, and in the late 60’s inflation was on the move, and thus LBJ lost to Nixon, who, during the campaign, had a “secret plan” to disengage (sound familiar?). Government borrowing also has the ability to time-shift consequences of war. I’m not saying the hyperinflation of the 70’s was solely caused by Vietnam, but the debt we had accrued fighting that war certainly wasn’t helping matters any.

    The lesson to learn from this is not that all defense spending is “wasted”, however, which is why I ridiculed Tom Coburn above. Having a strong national defense means that people can invest large amounts of capital in buildings and bridges and factories and other infrastructure without the fear that their neighbor will get jealous and come in and knock them down, or worse, take them for themselves. So the military provides a real service that has real value. But you can only spend so much in this manner before additional dollars aren’t really buying you anything more. The question of how much is “enough” is complicated, but since the US spends more than the entire rest of the world combined, I think we can at least agree that a massive increase is unwarranted, which is why I ridiculed Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

    The other danger of too much military spending is that the military becomes more powerful than the civilian government. To get itself out of the Great Depression, Japan embarked on a massive military spending binge (they also devalued their currency and managed to displace the UK in the textiles markets, since the UK stubbornly stuck to the gold standard longer than anyone else). It largely worked. The recession only lasted about 2 years and 2 years later they were back where they started, so they decided to cut back on some of that military spending. The military responded by trying to assassinate the finance minister (he died shortly thereafter from illness). So Japan continued deficit spending and the people got price controls, rationing, and inflation, and then they invaded China, and then WWII. The US has had an exceptional history of military deference to civilian government, but that’s no reason to tempt fate.

  140. By “hyperinlfation of the 70’s” I meant “stagflation”, of course. So sorry. My mind must still have been stuck back in the Weimar Republic.

  141. I begin to see why David got so frustrated. Now you’re essentially claiming you said “Even if AGW is real (for values of “real” meaning “having no actual effect”)…”

    Less frustration and more mockery. The entertainment value of talking points unthinkingly repeated is quite high. It leads to things like a ‘closed’ conference being broadcast on C-SPAN, and Republicans who aren’t Republicans.

    In a sense, it’s signaling mechanism. By spouting off the most ridiculous things, people signal that they are part of the right group. Thus, for example, George Will’s recent column on global warming. Will knows nothing about this (and gets wrong what he does know), doesn’t really care, but in these uncertain GOP times, he has to lay down a marker that he’s a ‘real’ Republican.

  142. derf @ 149 “CJ @ 139 seems to think if we had merely regulated the housing market or the derivatives markets well enough, all of this could have been avoided.”

    Not avoided, but ameliorated. I spoke imprecisely when I used the phrase greedy bankers. I was thinking of the companies of people who were creating and pushing sub-prime mortgages and then flipping them in a poorly regulated market.

    I don’t think that was the only driver at all, but it enabled people who were making foolish decisions to have access to money that they could not then pay back, which drove the housing bubble further before it collapsed. I have been waiting for more than five years for the bubble to burst. The magnitude of price increases in housing made no sense.

  143. CJ @ 177:

    But the reason people sold those MBSs is that there was someone willing to buy them, despite the lack of regulations, lack of transparency, and lack of accountability. When you have all of these investment banks who can easily run up to 30:1 and 40:1 leverage ratios, all that money has to go somewhere, and it really doesn’t matter where. At 40:1 leverage, a 2.5% decline wipes you out, and in a lot of markets 2.5% is line noise.

  144. Not quite, though that has been commonly asserted as well. The SEC’s side of the story on the “rule change” in 2004 was that before that, the 1975 net-capital rule did not actually explicitly apply to all of these institutions’ activities, and so until they set forth guidelines in 2004, there were no rules.

    The defacto rule was that everyone followed 15c3-1 anyway, so you can argue that by setting such a high limit their new guidelines had effectively relaxed existing capital requirements. But one of the big motivations in setting those requirements as low as they were set was to keep the firms competitive with their European counterparts. Again in the spirit of competition, once these new rules were made clear, everyone immediately leveraged themselves right up to the limit (yay free markets!). So even if the SEC hadn’t goofed, there still would have been plenty of European money sloshing around the mortgage market, and you can bet if the disparity had existed for too long, the big 5 broker dealers would have been moving assets to offshore subsidiaries to take advantage of laxer rules overseas.

    Also keep in mind, even the 1975 rule was a revision of the 1934 that now allowed broker-dealers to apply “haircuts” to the prices of securities they held based on… their ratings as produced by the Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations, allowing them to reduce capital requirements for “safe” investments.

    Yet another fun fact you don’t see reported very often: we no longer operate under a fractional reserve banking system. A series of 1990-1992 changes to the statutory reserve requirements lowered the requirements for several asset classes, including lowering that of nonpersonal time deposits to 0% (to boost liquidity to stave off the recession that did in Bush I). By 1994, banks had figured out that by sweeping deposits into money market funds overnight, they qualified as nonpersonal time deposits, and hence had no reserve requirements. How many of you remember your bank pressuring you to move the money in your traditional savings account into a money market account around this time? I do, though at the time I didn’t know why. By 1998, competition had again ensured that everyone employed this trick, and bank reserve balances had fallen to almost exactly the amount required to clear their daily transaction balances, and no more. In 2006 the Fed actually moved to eliminate the (now merely formal) reserve requirement entirely, though I don’t believe that passed.

    I give all of these examples to illustrate another problem with regulatory solutions: regulations are not forever. They’ll be repealed in good times (2004 SEC rule change) or in bad (1990-92 reserve requirements changes, 1975 net-capital rule change), as an expedient means of getting whatever seems important at the time. No one remembers the reasons they were put in place in the first place. There’s plenty more examples (e.g., Glass-Steagall), but this post is long enough.

    I would love to see all institutions given the same leverage limits as individual stockholders, i.e., 2:1, or at the very least traditional home buyers (80% LTV, or 5:1). But a) it would require international accord or banking would simply move somewhere else, but even with that accord b) it would be catastrophically impractical to implement, given current leverage ratios, and would require a huge increase in the monetary base, but even if some way was found to get there c) these institutions are not as powerless as individual investors, and would find a way to eliminate or side-step the regulations once everyone forgot how devastating massive amounts of leverage can be.

  145. derf @ 178

    “all that money has to go somewhere”

    And having that ‘somewhere’ be cheaper home or construction or other traditional type loans would have been bad why?

  146. Nargel @ 181:

    I’m not sure there’s a “would have”… to some degree this is also something that actually happened. Cheap mortgages distort price signals and raise home prices, which in conjunction with cheap construction loans encourage excess new home construction. Then you get stuff like this:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laland/2008/07/analyst-sees-gh.html
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121763228998406131.html

    This is not a supply-driven recession. There is plenty of supply. There is no longer any demand. And though sub-prime borrowers get most of the press, the party would have ended some day, anyway, even without them. Banks are finding credit rating is not as good a predictor of default rate as people thought. It turns out that whether you were able to pay off your monthly credit card bill for a few years has very little connection to whether you can keep sending in the mortgage check after you lose your job and your mortgage is 20% underwater so you can’t refinance it or sell the home.

  147. derf @ 182

    Less expensive loans aren’t the problem and we both know that. Imaginary money being sold to suckers and other frauds being perpetrated on massive numbers of people through 3rd parties (investment banks, etc.) Trillians of dollars of imaginary money making it impossible to know who is a creditable lender anymore. No major lending source willing to trust any other, hence no lending of note. This is not a demand driven recession either. This is an incomming depression caused by and driven by greed and fear at the highest levels of the financial system. “Greed is good” my ass! I’m old enough to remember when and by which administration that particular societally deadly meme was spread.

    The derivative inventers and pushers poisoned the credit well and the monetary system is in toxic shock from that. Unlike successful parisites, these pests are killing their host.

  148. The day Obama was elected: Dow closed at 9625.
    The day Obama was inaugurated: Dow closed at 7949.
    After a month of Hope and Change: Dow closed at 7114.

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