It’s Finally Happened: Obama Has Driven the Pundits Insane!

samuelson

Sure, these two guys were a little nutty to begin with, but now they’ve gone around the bend.

First up: Have you seen the latest drivel from Robert J. Samuelson? Seriously, even the Washington Post should be ashamed to publish this guy. Get this — Samuelson says that sequestration is John F. Kennedy’s fault!

How so?

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy made a decision that, with hindsight, ranks as the biggest mistake of domestic policy since World War II. In many ways, it led directly to today’s “sequester” debacle.

Good Grief! What’s he talking about? The Bay of Pigs? The Cuban missile crisis?

No silly, President Kennedy decided to stimulate the economy.

In early 1963, he proposed a $13.6 billion tax cut (today: about $320 billion) even though the economy was not in recession and the tax cut would enlarge the budget deficit. Kennedy adopted the theory that government could, by manipulating its budgets, increase economic growth, reach “full employment” (then a 4 percent unemployment rate) and reduce — or eliminate — recessions.

It was a disaster.

High inflation was the first shock. An initial boom (by 1969, unemployment was 3.5 percent) spawned a wage-price spiral. With government seeming to guarantee 4 percent unemployment, workers and businesses had little reason to restrain wages and prices. In 1960, inflation was 1 percent; by 1980, it was 13 percent. The economy became less stable. From 1969 to 1982, there were four recessions, as the Federal Reserve alternated between trying to push unemployment down and prevent inflation from going up. Only in the early 1980s did the Fed, under Paul Volcker and with Ronald Reagan’s support, crush inflationary psychology.

JFK tax cut

A disaster? Really? I was a kid in the 1960s. The economy was great in those days–until 1973, those were the best economic times I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Unemployment was low, wages were good, people like my parents were movin’ on up to the middle class. But don’t take it from me–let’s see what an actual economist has to say about this. Here’s Dean Baker at the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR):

Samuelson’s economic history is even more striking than the linking of Kennedy to the sequester. He notes the fiscal stimulus that was sparked by the Kennedy tax cuts (and the Vietnam War and Johnson’s Great Society programs) and the boom that resulted, and tells us that “it was a disaster.”

….

Before looking at Samuelson’s horror story here, it is worth noting what happened in the boom, which can be treated as going through 1973, in spite of the recession in 1969. Growth over the 10 years from 1963 to 1973 averaged 4.4 percent, by far the most rapid stretch in the post-World War II era.

The unemployment rate hovered near 4.0 percent for most of this period, as Samuelson complains. This led to large gains in real wages and sharp declines in poverty. The overall poverty rate fell from 19.5 percent in 1963 percent to 11.1 percent in 1973, an all-time low. For African Americans the poverty rate fell from 55.1 percent in 1959 (annual data is not available) to 31.4 percent in 1973. I suspect most folks wouldn’t mind a few more disasters like this one.

As far as the recession story, Samuelson might have told readers that we had the same number of recessions in the 13 years following 1969 as we did in the 12 years preceding 1961. I suppose those recessions were also due to the Kennedy tax cut.

There’s lots more at both links. But you have to read Samuelson’s column to believe it. He goes on to claim that because of JFK’s tax cut, we developed “the loss of budgetary discipline,” and we’re still suffering from that 50 years later. So how does he rationalize the deficit spending under Reagan and W. Bush? He doesn’t.

And over at The New York Times, Iraq War propagandist Bill Keller disagrees with Samuelson: he thinks sequestration is “Obama’s Fault.” And of course he’s still droning on about “entitlements.” Keller admits that both parties agreed on the sequestration cuts, but it’s still really Obama’s fault because he hasn’t completely destroyed the safety net yet. And here’s the best part: Obama refuses to enact Simpson Bowles.

11keller

In December 2010 the commission, led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, delivered its list of spending cuts and revenue increases, plus the entitlement reforms necessary to fortify Medicare and Social Security for the surge of baby-boom retirees.

The Simpson-Bowles agenda was imperfect, and had plenty to offend ideologues of the left and right, which meant that it was the very manifestation of what Obama likes to call “a balanced approach.”

Ummm…no, Bill, the Commission never issued a report. They couldn’t agree on a unified agenda, so Simpson and Bowles wrote up their own report which was never approved by the commission members.

Now here’s where Keller really goes off the rails:

If Obama had campaigned on some version of Simpson-Bowles rather than on poll-tested tax hikes alone, he could now claim a mandate from voters to do something big and bold. Most important, he would have some leverage with members of his own base who don’t want to touch Medicare even to save it. This was missed opportunity No. 1.

That’s really funny. If Obama had campaigned on Simpson-Bowles, Mitt Romney would be president now. Because if you campaign on really really unpopular issues, people have a tendency to like, not vote for you.

There’s much more at the link, but you get the idea.


Tuesday Reads: Daniel Inouye, Richard Engel, and Fiscal Slope Trial Balloons and Lead Balloons

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Good Morning!!

Senator Dan Inouye, who died yesterday at age 88 was a Japanese American who fought for the U.S. in World War II. From Time Magazine:

On Dec. 7, 1941, high school senior Daniel Inouye knew he and other Japanese-Americans would face trouble when he saw Japanese dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighters on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military bases.

He and other Japanese-Americans had wanted desperately to be accepted, he said, and that meant going to war.

“I felt that there was a need for us to demonstrate that we’re just as good as anybody else,” Inouye, who eventually went on to serve 50 years as a U.S. Senate from Hawaii, once said. “The price was bloody and expensive, but I felt we succeeded.”

Inouye had wanted to become a surgeon, but he lost his right arm in a firefight during the war. He was elected to the House in 1959 after Hawaii became a state. Inouye became well known nationally as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee and later as chairman of the Congressional committee that investigated the Iran Contra scandal.

In one of the most memorable exchanges of the Watergate proceedings, an attorney for two of Nixon’s closest advisers, John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, referred to Inouye as a “little Jap.”

The attorney, John J. Wilson, later apologized. Inouye accepted the apology, noting that the slur came after he had muttered “what a liar” into a microphone that he thought had been turned off following Ehrlichman’s testimony.

Inouye achieved celebrity status when he served as chairman of the congressional panel investigating the Iran-Contra affair in 1987. That committee held lengthy hearings into allegations that top Reagan administration officials had facilitated the sale of weapons to Iran, in violation of a congressional arms embargo, in hopes of winning the release of American hostages in Iran and to raise money to help support anti-communist fighters in Nicaragua….

The panel sharply criticized Reagan for what it considered laxity in handling his duties as president. “We were fair,” Inouye said. “Not because we wanted to be fair but because we had to be fair.”

NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his production team have been released after five days in captivity in Syria. The Guardian reports:

The group disappeared shortly after crossing into north-west Syria from Turkey last Thursday (13 December). NBC had no contact with the kidnappers and asked for a news blackout about the incident, which was observed by mainstream news outlets.

There was no request for a ransom during the time Engel and his crew were missing.

After being abducted they were put into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location, believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin.

Throughout their captivity they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, said the network.

Read more at the link.

According to Beltway Bob (AKA Ezra Klein), a deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner is in the offing, and it isn’t a good deal for old ladies who are trying to survive on Social Security.

Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between. More revenue will come from limiting deductions, likely using some variant of the White House’s oft-proposed, oft-rejected idea for limiting itemized deductions to 28 percent. The total revenue raised by the two policies will likely be a bit north of $1 trillion. Congress will get instructions to use this new baseline to embark on tax reform next year. Importantly, if tax reform never happens, the revenue will already be locked in.

On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits. Beyond that, the negotiators will agree to targets for spending cuts. Expect the final number here, too, to be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, but also expect it to lack many specifics. Whether the cuts come from Medicare or Medicaid, whether they include raising the Medicare age, and many of the other contentious issues in the talks will be left up to Congress.

Now how is that a win for Democrats? If we go over the cliff, Republicans are going to be blamed, and taxes will go up on everyone until Republicans give in to public outcry in early January. But Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cuts will inevitably be blamed on Democrats, who are supposed to fight for the social safety net. Then in 2014, Republicans will attack them for those cuts, and it will work–just as it did when Romney and Ryan falsely accused Obama of cutting Medicare benefits in the recent presidential campaign. Back to Beltway Bob:

The deal will lift the spending sequester, but it will be backed up by, yes, another sequester-like policy. I’m told that the details on this next sequester haven’t been worked out yet, but the governing theory is that it should be more reasonable than the current sequester. That is to say, if the two parties can’t agree on something better, then this should be a policy they’re willing to live with.

On stimulus, unemployment insurance will be extended, as will the refundable tax credits. Some amount of infrastructure spending is likely. Perversely, the payroll tax cut, one of the most stimulative policies in the fiscal cliff, will likely be allowed to lapse, which will deal a big blow to the economy.

Again, that doesn’t sound like a win for Obama at all. Let’s hope Beltway Bob is wrong again.

Dean Baker on the chained CPI: He argues that the chained CPI is not really applicable to seniors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has constructed an experimental elderly index (CPI-E) which reflects the consumption patterns of people over age 62. This index has shown a rate of inflation that averages 0.2-0.3 percentage points higher than the CPI-W.

The main reason for the higher rate of inflation is that the elderly devote a larger share of their income to health care, which has generally risen more rapidly in price than other items. It is also likely that the elderly are less able to substitute between goods, both due to the nature of the items they consume and their limited mobility, so the substitutions assumed in the chained CPI might be especially inappropriate for the elderly population.

Baker explains for the umpteenth time that it is wrong to use Social Security cuts to lower the deficit.

It is important to remember that under the law Social Security is supposed to be treated as a separate program that is financed by its own stream of designated revenue. This means that it cannot contribute to the budget deficit under the law, because it is only allowed to spend money from the Social Security trust fund.

This is not just a rhetorical point. There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. The projections from the Social Security trustees show the program first facing a shortfall in 2033 after which point it will only be able to pay a bit more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits. While this date is still fairly far in the future, at some point it will likely be necessary to address a shortfall.

It is reasonable to expect that the changes needed to keep the program fully funded will involve some mix of revenue increases and benefit cuts. However if the chained CPI is adopted as part of a budget deal unconnected to any larger plan for Social Security then it effectively means that there will have been a substantial cut to Social Security benefits without any quid pro quo in terms of increased revenue. This hardly seems like a good negotiating move from the standpoint of those looking to preserve and strengthen the program.

There is much much more at the link. Digby has been writing about this issue for months, and she had another good post on it yesterday.

There has always been some fantasy, mostly held by people who are about to be fleeced by Wall Street sharpies, that this country should be run like a cash business. It cannot and should not be done that way. (Ask Mitt Romney about the role of debt in a modern economy.) The problem is that this focus on debt is making it impossible to do the things we need to do to spur economic growth in the short term, which would close the deficit, and apparently the only way anyone in Washington can see to get around that is to sell off the future security of American citizens as some sort of human sacrifice for no good reason. It simply is not necessary, as Krugman shows.

John Boehner came up with a new “offer” this week-end to raise the rates on those who make a million or more each year and also agreed to take the debt ceiling off the table for the next year. Krugman thinks this is a bad deal which Obama has no good reason to take — and I would agree with him if I didn’t still see a very dangerous possibility that the administration wants to pursue some unacceptable spending cuts in order to deliver on that “balanced approach.” A looming debt ceiling fight is a very good excuse for them to do that. If kicking the can down the road another year will stop them from cutting more spending, then I’m inclined to say take the deal.

Obviously, this whole thing is ridiculous. They should get rid of this idiotic debt ceiling vote altogether: after all once they appropriate the funds they’ve agreed to pay for them whether through taxation or borrowing. This yearly vote allows them to get credit for the goodies and then later refuse to pick up the tab. But unless they are willing to give it up completely, I’d be glad to at least see it be delayed until the White House stops talking about cutting vital programs.

And yes, the taxes should go up for all income over $250,000. They can afford it. But not if the price is changing to the Chained CPI which will take the food out of the mouths of 90 year old women and squeeze veterans and disabled people who can’t afford it. In other words, the devil is in the details. If Obama hangs tough as Krugman prescribes and wins on all these points without giving up the store (also known as “making tough choices ” his own base “won’t like”) then I say go for it. I’m just not sure I have much faith that’s the game plan. If it isn’t, then maybe he should take Boehner’s offer, repeal the sequester and put this to bed for the time being. There’s been more than enough cutting already to drag this economy down. Let’s see what happens if we stop the austerity insanity for a while.

Dr. Dakinikat would probably agree with that.

Meanwhile, most Americans disapprove of the the proposed cuts to safety net programs, so maybe this will turn out to be another trial balloon that goes over like a lead balloon.

Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the “fiscal cliff,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The strong support for compromise belies widespread public opposition to big spending cuts that are likely to be part of any deal.

Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items “unacceptable.”

Wow. I’m running out of space already? Suddenly, a week before Xmas there’s more happening in the news. We’ll have to discuss other items in in the comments. So what’s on your reading list today?


Entitled One-Percenter Bill Keller Wants Baby Boomers to Give Up Social Security and Medicare

Smarmy former NYT editor Bill Keller

From today’s New York Times: “The Entitled Generation.”

The notion that our generation has been spoiled rotten is not a terribly new thought. A dozen years ago Paul Begala (of Bill Clinton and CNN fame) published in Esquire the classic of boomer-loathing, “The Worst Generation.” “The Baby Boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history,” he declared. It’s a sturdy genre. Perhaps while Googling yourself you have come across the blog Boomer Deathwatch (“Because one day, they’ll all be dead”), a checklist of famous boomers who hit their actuarial sell-by dates. Even Barack Obama, who styles himself post-boomer though he was born in 1961, complained in “The Audacity of Hope” that today’s hyperpolarized political discourse began with the “psychodrama of the baby boom generation.”

Yeah, we’re all evil just because our parents returned from WWII and proceeded to have lots and lots of babies. Supposedly not one of us ever did a decent thing in our pathetic, useless lives, right? I’m sick to death of hear this crap–and I’ve been hearing it since I was a kid.

See Keller says it’s our fault that the government isn’t rebuilding the infrastructure. He says it won’t do any good to tax super-rich guys like him–we’re going to have to take it out of the hides of old ladies who are trying to eke out a living on $1200 a month or less.

Guys like Bill Keller don’t even have to pay into Social Security on the bulk of their income, but he doesn’t even mention the possibility of changing that. So what does super-rich one-percenter Bill Keller think we should do about it besides learning to loathe ourselves and wish we’d never been born?

So the question is not whether entitlements have to be brought under control, but how. The Republican plan espoused by Mitt Romney and his fiscal lodestar Paul Ryan would cut the cost of entitlements largely by moving toward privatization: personal investment accounts for Social Security, vouchers for Medicare. And it’s not at all clear the Republicans would assign any of the savings to investing in our future.

At least the Republicans have a plan. The Democrats generally recoil from the subject of entitlements. Centrists like those at Third Way and the bipartisan authors of the Simpson-Bowles report endorse a menu of incremental cuts and reforms that would bring down costs without hitting the needy or snatching away the security blanket from those nearing retirement. They include gradually raising the retirement age to compensate for the fact that we now live, on average, 14 years longer than when F.D.R. signed Social Security into law. They include obliging those of us who can really afford it to pay a larger share. They also include technical fixes like aligning the automatic cost-of-living formula with reality.

At least now we know which candidate Keller will be voting for in November. So much for the supposedly “liberal media.” Oh, and about that “technical fix” Keller brushes off so dismissively, Matthew Yglesias explains why it isn’t a “technical fix” and “doing the switch comprehensively would constitute a de facto tax increase.” Furthermore, there was no “Simpson-Bowles report,” because the two co-chairs were unable to get a majority of members of the Catfood Commission to sign off on one.

Judith Miller with patron Bill Keller

I have a terrific idea. Let’s hold Bill Keller responsible for his choice to assign Judith Miller to help the Bush administration lie us into the Iraq War. Let Bill Keller pay back the trillions of dollars of taxpayer money those lies cost us. That ought to provide some funds to invest in infrastructure here in the U.S.

Here’s what Dean Baker had to say about Keller’s lying op-ed:

That is really brave for Mr. Keller to stand up and call for sacrifice from his age cohort. Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

Does this situation describe Mr. Keller’s finances? My guess is that it doesn’t. If that is true, how does Keller claim to speak for people who are in a hugely different financial situation than him? Is he really that ignorant of the issues that the NYT gives him a column to write about or is he dishonest? Readers will have to debate that in the months and years ahead.

Baker says the real problem we have is the increase in income inequality over the past thirty years, but he’s not holding his breath for Keller to “appeal to his fellow one-percenters….He probably doesn’t have the courage or integrity to do that.”

I saved the best review of Keller’s op-ed for last. You guessed it, it’s by Charlie Pierce: “The Things Bill Keller Doesn’t Have to Worry About.”

I defy Bill Keller to last a week living only on those benefits available to the greedy boomers, especially after the Simpson-Bowles cargo cult — to say nothing of the zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan himself — are through with them. I defy him to make it for a day. The “we” sprinkled throughout this bag of pus is probably the most noxious thing about it. Look around, Bill. You and Mitt Romney have far more in common than do you and the overwhelming majority of your “fellow” boomers. One catastrophic illness, and many of our families die on the vine. This is not hyperbole. This is how it works in the world. And, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Keller signs on with the clowns at Third Way, who assure us that the real problem is that the elderly moochers are the ones keeping us from building new bridges, or flying to the moons of Neptune. Jesus H. Christ on a Lipizzaner, we’ve had forty years of demonized government, and 40 years of quack economics, and tax-cuts until hell won’t have them, and the reason our infrastructure is falling apart is because some retired ironworker gets $1200 a month? How much of a courtier do you have to be before the taste of caviar makes you nauseous?

If we want to invest in infrastructure, which we desperately need to do, then we should just borrow money at the current historically low rates and fix the damn infrastructure…. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money. Bill Keller never will have to worry about the last two, so I think he should shut up about the first.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I have a few interesting reads for you today. There isn’t a lot to be happy about in the news these days, but I hope that some of my picks will bring a smile to your face.

Maybe this will do it: Clint Eastwood: ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ if gays marry. The superstar actor and director told GQ Magazine that he considers himself an Eisenhower Republican, and he doesn’t sound too happy with the people running the party these days.

“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?” Eastwood opined. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.”

“They go on and on with all this bullshit about ‘sanctity’ — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”

[….]

“I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War,” he told GQ. “And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone.”

Go ahead, make my day, Clint.

This story is a few days old, but it made me smile: Zakaria destroys Rumsfeld’s Iraq war talking points. Zakaria interviewed Rumsfeld on September 11, and the old goat still tried to claim that al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S. invaded.

“There’s no question that al Qaeda and Zarqawi and people were in Iraq,” Rumsfeld argued. “They aggregated there.”

“If we hadn’t invaded, they wouldn’t have been there,” Zakaria pointed out.

“We don’t know that,” Rumsfeld insisted. “You don’t know that. I don’t know that.”

“But they went in to fight us. So since we weren’t there, why would they have gone into Iraq?” Zakaria countered.

“Why have they gone into Yemen and Somalia?” Rumsfeld asked. “Why do al Qaeda go anywhere? They go where it’s hospitable.”

“Right, and Iraq hadn’t been hospitable,” Zakaria said.

ROFLOL! Why is this joke of a man able to get a book contract? Why does anyone want to put him on TV? He’s a complete loon.

Speaking of deserving people getting their comeuppance, deadbeat dad and Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh was “scolded” by a Chicago judge yesterday for failing to support his children.

A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.

Vega did issue a “rule to show cause” — which means Walsh has to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years.

Laura Walsh argues her ex-husband owes more than $100,000, a number the congressman disputes. But Vega’s ruling means that the burden is now on the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe the money, attorneys for both Walshes agree.

Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.

What a slug that guy Walsh is!

I came across this fascinating piece by Sarah Jaffe at Alternet: Are Jobs on Their Way to Becoming Obsolete? And Is That a Good Thing? It’s a long read, but I highly recommend you take the time. Here’s just a sample:

Media theorist and author of Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back Douglas Rushkoff ruffled some feathers this week when he dared, at CNN.com of all places, to ask that question. It seemed, perhaps, gloriously insensitive to the plight of unemployed workers, of union workers at the U.S. Postal Service, who are struggling like so many others to stay afloat in an uncertain economy while they’re demonized in the press as greedy for wanting a decent job.

[….]

He argues that perhaps we’re going about it backward when we call for jobs, that maybe it’s not a bad thing that technology is replacing workers, and points out that actually, we do produce enough food and “stuff” to support the country and even the world—that, in fact, we produce too much “stuff.”

He alternately harkens back to a past before jobs, when many people worked for themselves on a subsistence level, and forward to a future where we are all busy making games and books and communicating with one another from behind computer screens, with the hours we have to work dwindling.

Rushkoff’s ideas really resonated with me. I haven’t worked a full-time job since 1986, and although I don’t have a lot of money, I have never regretted my decision to quit my 9-5 job and find some meaning in my life by doing things that made me happy. I did find that meaning, first by working on my own problems and issues and then by helping and being a caregiver for my elderly ex-mother-in-law in return for a place to live.

Because my expenses were low, I was able to return to college and get a bachelor’s degree, then go on to graduate school and earn an MA and a PhD. During graduate school and after, I have worked as a teaching assistant and have taught a number of courses. But now that I’m finished with my education, I’ve been reluctant to search for a full-time teaching job.

Lately I’ve survived mostly on my Social Security and selling my huge accumulation of books on the internet with a few teaching jobs thrown in. I will also have another small source of retirement income from my days as a full-time office worker when I choose to take it. I’m enjoying the time I’ve had to follow politics closely and blog about it. I’ve never been all that ambitious. I went to school simply for the joy of learning. I do want to find ways to give back, but I don’t care that much about making piles of money. I might have to check out Rushkoff’s book.

At Truthout, I learned that liberal economist Dean Baker has also written a book, and you can even download it free! The book is called “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. From the Truthout article by Keane Bhatt, Dean Baker: Why Didn’t We Make These Guys Run Around Naked With Their Underpants Over Their Heads?

KB: Your book argues that financial crises don’t have to lead to “lost decades” of massive pain and suffering and, even more importantly, that the US never even experienced a true financial crisis.

DB: There’s a lot of real sloppy thinking here. The main promulgators of this view are Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart and they say that they look back over 600 years of history and find that in almost all these cases, countries took over a decade to recover. It’s painful, because I’d like to think – and one would expect that they’d like to think – that we know more economics than we did 600 years ago. If we don’t – and we really haven’t learned anything – why do you guys get paid high salaries? I say that only partially facetiously. If we were to look back through time, a very high percentage – probably the majority – of newborn babies didn’t survive to age 5. You’d be an idiot to say that the past trend holds today – we have modern medicine, so we have a very good reason to expect that the overwhelming majority of children will survive to age 5. We have learned something in economics over six centuries, so it’s not some curse, they’re concrete problems.

Finance gets very mysterious and complicated. There are instruments that are hard for people to understand; they’re hard for me to understand. The basic story is not complicated: we need demand. As I say in the book, there’s very little about the financial crisis that explains where we are today. People who want to buy homes have no problem getting credit – you can’t go 0% down, but someone who, say, 15 years ago was able to get a home mortgage can expect to get a home mortgage today. In terms of businesses, the US, unlike Japan, has a very large capital market where firms can directly access capital through commercial paper and bond financing. The current rates are extraordinarily low in both nominal and real terms. So the idea that the banks being crippled would impede the economy doesn’t follow when hundreds of the largest firms can go straight to the market and get financing.

Let’s imagine that the big firms can get credit but the small ones can’t. That would create a situation in which the big firms are running wild, grabbing market share at the expense of smaller competitors crippled by lack of access to capital. This is not happening.

There’s a survey that the National Federation of Independent Business has done for a quarter century that asks businesses what are the biggest problems to expanding. And currently, almost no one mentions finance – either access or cost. So clearly the problem is not finance.

Read the whole interview if you can–it’s well worth it.

I’m going to end with a story that won’t necessarily make you smile, but it’s a story that puts the lie to the Bush/Cheney claims that torture helped make us safer. I think that’s a good thing. In fact, author and former FBI interrogator Ali H. Soufan argues that the opposite is true, and that in fact 9/11 could have been prevented with traditional interrogation methods. Watch his interview with Keith Olbermann:

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?


It’s still the jobs, stupid

In what I hope is not some symbolic hype, Alan Krueger–an actual economist and a labor one at that–was nominated by President Obama today to head the Council of Economic Advisors.  He will replace Austin Goolsbee.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Krueger’s scholarship suggests he will “likely provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.”

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Krueger’s academic work has frequently played a valuable role in the political discourse. When congressional Republicans blatantly lied about the costs of a cap-and-trade plan, it was Krueger who set the record straight. When conservatives said in 2009 that slashing the minimum wage would boost the economy, Krueger explained why the opposite is true.

The economist also brings relevant experience to the table.

I’m hoping this finally brings the correct policy priorities and prescriptions to the table. We’ve had nearly three years of confused messages and results and the economy is clearly the worse for it.  There’s an article up at The Guardian by economist Dean Baker that pretty much sums up all of my economic posts for the past few years.  Obama never seemed to understand that high unemployment is a problem and never instituted any kind of policy to target the problem directly.  He says he gets it now, but I’d just like to remind every one that he said he got it after the election that delivered the House of Representatives to the Tea Party terrorists and still has shown no sign that he understands that people expect bold fiscal policy in the face of low economic growth.  All we keep getting is tax breaks for rich people and opposites day fiscal policy.

President Obama has discovered how serious the recession is. That’s what he told an audience in Chicago last week. To be fair, he was referring to revised data from the commerce department showing that the falloff in GDP was larger than originally reported.

But ridicule is appropriate. He and we knew all along how many people were out of work. The employment numbers told us the size of the hole and the desperate need for government action.

This sort of ridiculous comment, and President Obama’s weak response to the recession over the first two and a half years of his presidency, explains the tidal wave of scepticism facing his widely hyped upcoming speech on jobs after the Labor Day weekend. The list of remedies leaked ahead of time does little to inspire hope.

At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the 2 percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth.

As it stands, the social security programme is being fully reimbursed for the lost tax revenue, but there is always the possibility that Republicans will use this as a basis for attacking the programme. Given President Obama’s willingness to support cuts to social security, it is understandable that this part of his jobs agenda doesn’t generate much enthusiasm.

Baker goes on to call for a new CCC and explains why trade agreements, tax cuts to business yet again that undermine social security, and all the rest of the “jobs” agenda touted by the President aren’t going to do much of anything.  Economist Nancy Folbre has a great piece of analysis up at the NYT explaining why letting this high level of unemployment go on for a period of time has an increasingly negative impact on the entire economy because things multiply over time.  However, a new study covered by Folber shows that the unemployed  just don’t sit around and act like they are on vacation.  They create value by doing unpaid work.  The same folks that think that the unemployed just lie around are the same ones that push the meme that homemakers spend their days eating bon bons and watching soap operas.

The overall increase in non-market work implies that household consumption among the unemployed fell less than market income, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the unpaid work. When people make a voluntary decision to substitute time for money, we can infer something about the relative value they place on it.

But most unemployment is involuntary, and some unpaid work probably represents an effort to stay busy more than a significant contribution to household living standards.

The authors emphasize the relatively large impact of unemployment on unpaid work, in part because this is a new finding, and in part because it counters the wrong impression that, as Professor Hurst put it, the Great Recession was a Great Vacation.

But it is also important to note that most of the unemployed can’t allocate more of the free time they gain to productive uses, even if they want to. They lack the capital, land, tools and skills needed to flexibly shift from wage employment to production for their own use. Even when they can make a partial shift, their productivity is likely to be lower in unpaid work than paid work.

That’s why involuntary unemployment represents such a waste of human capabilities and loss of productive output for the economy as a whole.

So, what can Alan Krueger bring to the White House if the President will listen to this economist?  This is economist Mark Thoma’s take on the appointee.

His most well known research is on the minimum wage and immigration, The work is somewhat controversial in that the results show small negative effects from raising the minimum wage and from increasing immigration. In my view that is a sign of an economist who is willing to let the evidence do the talking, and that is a good trait to have in this job.

He has also worked in many other areas, including occupational licensing, the economics of terrorism, and more recently on job search in periods when unemployment is high, including how job search is affected by things such as unemployment insurance. But that is just a small taste of the large amount of research he has done.

Krueger’s been working at the Treasury so maybe that will give him access that many of the other Obama economic advisers seemed without.  Time is running out for policy to help the unemployed in any meaningful way.  I say this because as we get closer to the election, it will make the Republicans more surly and less likely to do anything to help a Democratic administration. They’ve already been rewarded for hostage-taking behavior.  Then, there’s the policy lags.  Things like infrastructure banks take a lot of time to set up. Ideas like  patent reform are laughable as job creation tools. I have no idea why the Obama administration won’t embrace things that worked in the past, but that doesn’t appear to be their MO.  They seemed to get their jobs mojo from reheating failed Republican canards and presenting them as the higher, middle ground. I continue to be discouraged.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m switching to strong coffee this morning, because I’ve had the sleepies for the past few days. It’s been really damp and humid here, so maybe that’s the reason. All I know is I keep dozing off, and I don’t like it! Anyway, let’s get to the news before I nod out again.

A few days ago, commenter madaha turned me on to an article about a fascinating new book that just came out last week. The book is called A First Rate Madness. The author is Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University. From Salon:

Nassir Ghaemi, an author and professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, argues that many of history’s most famous and admired figures, from Churchill to FDR to Gandhi, showed signs of mental illness — and became better leaders because of it. Ghaemi bases his argument on historical records and some of the latest experimental studies on depression and mania, arguing that mild symptoms can actually enhance qualities like creativity or empathy.

After reading the piece in Salon, I immediately ordered the book and I’ve been dipping into it over the past couple of days.

So far, I’ve read the chapter on FDR, and I’m going to read about JFK next. According to Ghaemi, both of these men had hyperthymic personalities: basically, they were upbeat, enthusiastic, energetic, and creative, because they tended to be somewhat hypomanic (a milder, less disabling form of the mania experienced by those with bipolar disorder). In addition, both FDR and JFK suffered from serious physical illnesses–FDR from polio and JFK from Addison’s disease. These illnesses and other adversities these two men faced enabled them to develop empathy for the suffering of ordinary people–even though they were both from privileged backgrounds. Ghaemi argues that people with slightly abnormal personalities are better leaders–particularly in times of crisis when great creativity, empathy, and resilience are needed. According to Ghaemi:

Many people who experience traumas [like terrorism or war] don’t develop PTSD or other illnesses. So the question is, what keeps those people from getting sick? What creates resilience? The psychological research suggests that personality is a major factor. Resilience seems to be associated with mild manic symptoms, but you can’t develop resilience unless you’ve already experienced trauma. Many of these leaders faced adversity in their childhood and adulthood, and that seemed to make them better able to handle crises. It’s like a vaccine. You get exposed to a little bit of a bacteria then you can handle major infections and I think trauma and resilience and hyperthymic personality seem to follow a similar path.

Ghaemi does not discuss Obama’s personality in the book, but Salon interviewer Thomas Rogers asked the author whether Obama may be too “sane” to be a successful President in our current time of crisis.

Obama’s persona is that of a very sane, rational person who is good at compromise — which is definitely how he sold himself during the debt ceiling crisis. Do you think Obama’s sanity is hurting his abilities as a leader?

I didn’t discuss Obama and other current leaders in the book, because there are documentation and confidentiality issues, and a lot of speculation would have to happen. That said, Obama has said himself that he thinks he’s very normal. This no-drama-Obama persona is meant to reassure people about his normality, but I think that when you look at his memoir there’s a sense of a much more complex and profound person who may have experienced a great deal of anxiety and maybe some depression growing up, being half-white half-African-American. The [sane] parts of his psychology may hinder his leadership in terms of not being creative, and that may not be as useful in a crisis. But to whatever extent he’s not fully completely average, he’ll have some psychological reservoir to draw on to think more creatively and realistically about the current situation.

I wish I could agree that Obama might learn to deal with the nation’s difficulties, but so far he doesn’t seem to learn anything from experience. Most of the leaders that Ghaemi discusses suffered from mood disorders–depression or bipolar disorder. Obama, on the other hand, appears to have a different kind of disorder–either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder, or both.

Dakinikat alerted me to an interview with Ghaemi on NPR. I haven’t listened to it yet, but here’s the link.

Getting back to current news, this coming Saturday, Rick Perry plans to announce that he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina on Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll — and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire — will send shock waves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll.

Immediately following his speech in South Carolina, Perry will make his New Hampshire debut at a house party at the Portsmouth-area home of a state representative, Pamela Tucker, the Union Leader reported Monday. Tucker was among the Granite Staters who went to Texas last week to encourage Perry to run.

What can I say? This is ghastly news. Think Progress is reporting that besides being a fundamentalist religious fanatic, Perry shares a similar problem to that of fellow wingnut Michele Bachmann–he has taken lots of Federal money in farm subsidies–$80,000, to be exact.

Verizon workers have gone out on strike–45,000 of them.

More than 45,000 workers from New England to Virginia went on strike just after midnight today at Verizon Communications. Since bargaining began July 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired, Verizon, a $100 billion company, still was looking for $1 billion in concessions from 45,000 workers and families. That’s about $20,000 in givebacks for every family, nearly 100 concessionary proposals remained on the table.

This despite Verizon’s 2011 annualized revenues of $108 billion and net profits of $6 billion. At the same time, Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company, Vodaphone, a $10 billion dividend. Meanwhile, Verizon’s five top executives received $258 million over the past four years.

The workers, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW), say they are striking until Verizon “stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.”

According to Reuters, both sides are accusing each other of bad acts:

The second day of a strike by Verizon workers turned ugly after union representatives accused managers of injuring three workers while driving past picket lines, and the phone giant complained of a spike in network sabotage cases.

[….]

Verizon complained of network sabotage cases in the same statement where it said some picketing workers were unlawfully blocking Verizon managers’ access to work centers.

A spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, representing 35,000 of the strikers, said the union “does not condone illegal action of any kind.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing 10,000 strikers, also said members “are expected to obey the law.”

However, the CWA said some picketing workers were hurt by Verizon managers’ cars and that one worker was knocked unconscious when he was clipped by the mirror of a manager’s car that was speeding past a picket line.

Dean Baker had a great piece at Truthout yesterday: The Economic Illiterates Step Up the Attack on Social Security and Medicare

The nonsense with the S&P downgrade is yet another distraction – after four months of haggling over the debt ceiling idiocy – from the real problem facing the country: a downturn that has left 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the labor force altogether. Tens of millions of people are seeing their career hopes and family lives wrecked by the prospect of long-term unemployment.

The incredible part of this story is that the people who are responsible are all doing just fine, and most of them are still making policy. Furthermore, they are using their own incompetence as a weapon to argue that we have to take even more money from the poor and middle class, this time in the form of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

The basic story is that the economy needs demand. The housing bubble generated more than $1.4 trillion in annual demand through the construction and consumption that it spurred. Now that this demand is gone, there is nothing to replace it. President Obama’s stimulus was replaced by some of the lost demand, but it was nowhere near large enough. We tried to fill a $1.4 trillion hole in annual demand with around $300 billion in annual stimulus in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, most of this boost has been exhausted and the economy is coming to a near standstill.

If we had serious people in Washington, they would be talking about jobs programs, about rebuilding the infrastructure, about work sharing, and any other measure that could get people back to work quickly. However, instead of talking about ways to re-employ people, the fixation in Washington is reducing the deficit.

We’ve heard these arguments again and again (especially from our own Dakinikat), but they bear repeating until the ignorant Villagers get the message.

Remember the “rape cops” in New York–the ones who were found not guilty recently? Well, one of them finally got a tiny bit of justice. A judge sentenced Kenneth Moreno to one year in prison for official misconduct. But then another judge freed him.

Disgraced ex-cop Kenneth Moreno didn’t stay in jail for long.

A couple hours after an angry Manhattan judge flat-out called Moreno a liar Monday and dispatched him to Rikers Island to being a year-long prison sentence, an appeals court judge sprung him.

Moreno, acquitted in May of raping a bombed fashion executive while his partner served as lookout, was released on $125,000 bail by Appeals Court Judge Nelson Roman so he can appeal his conviction on official misconduct charges.

It was a startling turnabout for the 43-year-old Moreno, who Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro ordered remanded.

I sure hope he ends up serving at least some jail time.

Dakinikat sent me this article on a report (PDF) called How to Liberate American from Wall Street Rule. Here are the report’s basic recommendations:

How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out details of a six-part policy agenda to rebuild a sensible system of community-based and accountable financial services institutions.

1. Break up the mega-banks and implement tax and regulatory policies that favor community financial institutions, with a preference for those organized as cooperatives or as for-profits owned by nonprofit foundations.

2. Establish state-owned partnership banks in each of the 50 states, patterned after the Bank of North Dakota. These would serve as depositories for state financial assets to use in partnership with community financial institutions to fund local farms and businesses.

3. Restructure the Federal Reserve to function under strict standards of transparency and public scrutiny, with General Accounting Office audits and Congressional oversight.

4. Direct all new money created by the Federal Reserve to a Federal Recovery and Reconstruction Bank rather than the current practice of directing it as a subsidy to Wall Street banks. The FRRB would have a mandate to fund essential green infrastructure projects as designated by Congress.

5. Rewrite international trade and investment rules to support national ownership, economic self-reliance, and economic self-determination.

6. Implement appropriate regulatory and fiscal measures to secure the integrity of financial markets and the money/banking system.

Finally, in case you missed it, I want to call your attention to this article that commenter The Rock linked to last night: Hillary Told You So

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.

Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

Go read the whole thing. That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about? Please share.


Tuesday Reads: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, a “Moderate Republican,” Buyer’s Remorse, and Sellouts

Coffee and Morning News, by Tim Nyberg

Good Morning!

Yesterday, Newsweek published a list of job-creating strategies by former President Bill Clinton. The headline is “It’s Still the Economy, Stupid.” I’m not going to excerpt from the article, you can read it at the link above.

But I’ll share part of the bad review Dean Baker gave Clinton’s suggestions, some of which seemed credible to to me. Dean Baker really has a bug up his a$$ about Bill Clinton. He makes a case that we began losing manufacturing jobs under Clinton and Bush simply continued was Clinton’s policies. I’d be interested to hear people’s responses this critique.

I don’t watch the Sunday shows anymore, but I learned from Steve Benen that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about jobs and unemployment on Face the Nation this week.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, host Bob Schieffer asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday, “Do Republicans have any plans to do anything on the unemployment front or are you just going to let things take their course?” It seemed like a good question.

McConnell replied, “No, I — I think — what — what we’re doing is encouraging the president to — to quit doing what he’s doing.”

Clearly McConnell isn’t even worried enough about the current unemployment crisis to have even thought about a response to what should be an obvious question.

From Jay Bookman, I learned that McConnell’s primary concern is “overregulation.”

McCONNELL: If you talk to business people and Bill Daley, the present chief of staff did recently, you find out their biggest complaint is overregulation. You know, the federal government with that stimulus money hired a quarter of a million new employees. These people are busily at work trying to regulate every aspect of American life in– in health care, financial services, through the Environmental Protection Agency, really sort of bureaucrats on steroids that are freezing up– the private– private sector and making it very difficult, Bob, for them to grow and expand. You know, you’re seen the reports that they’ve two trillion in cash. The reason they’re not investing that in hiring more people is the government has made it very expensive to expand employment.

His recommendations for Obama:

Quit overspending. And we’re hoping with the debt ceiling discussions we can begin to address deficit and debt. And second, they need to quit over-regulating the American economy. This is something they can do on their own. They don’t have to come to us for permission to rein in these regulators who are really at work across the American economy making it very, very difficult for businesses to function.

What about the Democrats? Benen links to this piece at Politico: Democrats eye new jobs agenda.

Senate Democrats are beginning to fear that the country’s increasingly dim economic outlook will cost them their seats in 2012 and are trying to craft a new agenda aimed at spurring job creation.

Wow! The Dems in the Senate have finally figured out that they might be in trouble with the electorate. Someone go find the President on the golf course or the basketball court or whereever he’s hanging out today and tell him the breaking news.

Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs.

“Jobs First?” Isn’t it a little late for that? It has already been “Wall Street First” for three years. Maybe “Jobs Second” would be a little more accurate, although I doubt if this latest project will amount to anything.

Everyone is talking about the NYT Sunday Magazine profile of Jon Huntsman, who is spouting the usual Republican economic insanity: Jon Huntsman Supports Radical Balanced Budget Amendment

In a private conference call with a handful of university students across the country, GOP Presidential hopeful — and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China — Jon Huntsman argued in support of one of the most far-reaching, controversial elements of the conservative political agenda.

As first reported in a broader piece by the Huffington Post, Huntsman argued in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to maintain a balanced budget — an innocuous-sounding, but radical plan pushed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and numerous other congressional conservatives.

“We’re going to have to fight for a balanced budget amendment,” Huntsman said. “Every governor in this country has a balanced budget amendment. It keeps everybody honest. It’s the best safeguard imaginable.”

At its core, a balanced-budget amendment would make it unconstitutional for the government to spend more than it collects in revenue — a requirement that, without safeguards, would make stimulus and emergency spending impossible.

Ezra Klein adds:

I’ve noted previously that Jon Huntsman’s campaign strategy appears to be to match a moderate, conciliatory tone with an orthodox conservative policy platform. And sure enough, he’s endorsing a balanced-budget amendment. It’s not clear if the specific balanced-budget amendment he’s endorsing is The Worst Idea in Washington — in which case, Huntsman will have to explain how he’ll handle the fact that Paul Ryan’s budget, which he has also endorsed, will be unconstitutional — or just a relative of it. Either way, it’s not moderate in the least. Which isn’t to say it’s not good politics.

From Andrew Leonard at Salon: The imaginary GOP “moderate” candidate

Reporter Matt Bai manages to deliver more than 6000 words on Huntsman without providing a single practical reason why anyone, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, might possibly consider voting for him. Whether this is because Bai simply isn’t interested in actual positions on the issues or because Huntsman just doesn’t have a platform to campaign on — or some evil toxic combination of both — is hard to say. But the result is just plain baffling. Bai quotes Huntsman as saying “I think what’s going to drive this election, really, are two things — authenticity and the economy” — and then proceeds to write a profile that doesn’t contain a single iota of insight into Huntsman’s views on any economic policy issue.

6000 words — and not a single one of them is “jobs” or “taxes” or “budget” or “deficit” or “Wall Street.” This amounts to political reporting malpractice. If Huntsman isn’t interested in delineating a stance on these issues, then why is Bai bothering to cover him? And if Bai isn’t interested in trying to discern what Huntsman’s stance is, why is the New York Times publishing him?

LOL! That’s pretty funny. Have I ever told you how much I hate Matt Bai?

It’s hard to believe it at this point, but some bloggers are just now figuring out that Obama isn’t “The One.” At Shakesville, Melissa McEwan reacts to a quote from Russ Feingold in which he says Jeffrey Immelt is “not the right guy…”

“It’s not just campaigns and contributions,” Feingold noted. “We have to say to the president, ‘Mr. President, Jeff Immelt is not the right guy – the CEO of GE is not the right guy to be running your Jobs & Competitiveness Council, not when your company doubled its profits, increased his compensation, and asked its workers to take huge pay and benefits cuts.'”

McEwan writes:

But as I read Feingold’s words—not the right guy—a not fully formed thought that has been hanging around the edges of my consciousness suddenly came sharply into focus: Obama is not the right guy.

It’s not (just) that his policies are insufficiently progressive, or even insufficiently Democratic, and it’s not (just) the arrogance, the hippie-punching, the bipartisan blah blah, the 12-dimensional chess, and it’s not (just) his tepid, half-assed, pusillanimous governance and his catastrophic ally fail. All of these things are just symptoms of this basic truth: Obama’s not up to the job.

I don’t mean he’s not up the job of being president; I mean he’s not up to the job of being president right now. I’m sure he’d have made a fine president some other time, some decade of relative peace and prosperity, where the biggest demand on his capacity was “don’t fuck it up.”

Check the date on that post. It’s June 17, 2011. She is just figuring all that out in 2011. How come I could already see it in 2007? And you should see the fawning comments on that post!

Here’s another buyer’s remorse post, and it’s very well thought out and well written. Janet Rhodes has clearly been angry with Obama for quite some time. But she still worked for his Campaign and voted for him. Why? Because he gave inspiring speeches!

Still her rant is worth reading. Fawning comments follow, naturally. Where were all these people back in 2008 when we had a choice? OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but still….

Finally, Kathryn Graham’s surviving relatives prove they couldn’t care less about news or the newspaper she valued so highly.

Washington Post Co. Chairman Don Graham sold off about $10 million in company stock days after successfully lobbying to loosen regulations on the for-profit higher education firm that is its most lucrative business.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Post Co. said the sale was on behalf of a trust for one of Graham’s siblings, not for Graham himself, and the company last week amended its filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify that Graham’s family, rather than he personally, was benefiting from the sale….

The disclosure indicates that the family that owns the paper profited from the bump in its stock price after the regulations became public and drove stock prices up across the for-profit education industry. Washington Post Company stock jumped 9% on reports of the new regulations; it has settled a bit since, but it still trading higher than before the news broke.

Let’s face it, newspapers are dead. Decent reporters should head to the internet.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?