Saturday, January 31, 2009

You're gonna have to let Tom go

By Edward Copeland


Supporters of Barack Obama had to go ahead and buy the excuses to let Timothy Geithner slide by as treasury secretary. I mean, if you are self-employed, it could be easy to forget to pay your Social Security taxes. It's not as if he forgot to pay his income taxes altogether. We just agreed to ignore that he conveniently forgot to pay the back taxes on the years he wasn't audited for until he was nominated by Obama, let alone his role in turning a blind eye to Wall Street's malfeasance in his role as the head of the New York Fed. Besides, we couldn't wait much longer to get a treasury secretary in place.

Then there was additional nervousness brought about by the speed in which the administration issued its first waiver to its first-day proclamation that no one would be placed in a post when they had lobbied that department in the past two years since William Lynn was supposedly so essential to the post they want him in at the Pentagon. On top of that comes reports of more lobbyists filling administration positions. Granted, it might have proved harder than they anticipated to fill all the jobs they have to fill without touching people who had to make a living that way, but still.

Now, a funny thing has happened to Tom Daschle on his way to being approved as secretary of health and human services. He also failed to pay back taxes. Again, it wasn't income taxes altogether, but instead more than $128,000 worth of compensation in the form of a car and driver provided him by a longtime friend and supporter. Obama still has high approval and the GOP remains in the toilet, but he can't risk the beginning of a loss of credibility and the image that the change he promised was just talk and his Washington culture isn't that far removed from the excesses of the robber barons of Wall Street. People hurting in this economy can relate to some extent to forgetting to pay Social Security taxes. They won't relate to even having someone giving you a car and driver, let alone forgetting to pay taxes on it.

Tom Daschle, may have been a loyal and faithful adviser to you during the campaign, Mr. President, but if he doesn't fall on his own sword as Bill Richardson did, you are going to have to throw him under the bus for your own sake.


UPDATE: The WSJ is reporting that Daschle "paid about $140,000 in back taxes and interest after questions surfaced during the vetting of his nomination." That is, he paid them back only after he was found out, although he is claiming that he didn't even think to report the car and driver on his taxes -- a credible excuse, I suppose, though I agree with Hilzoy that it suggests an appalling sense of entitlement. Whatever the case, it doesn't look good for Daschle, though it would be a real shame to lose him given his support for comprehensive health care reform. -- MJWS

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Suck it up or go under

By Creature

The Washington Post on Obama's plan for the rest of the TARP money [anonymous source/grain-of-salt warning]:

In finalizing the plan, officials have made a policy decision that could dismay lawmakers. The administration is likely to refrain from imposing tougher restrictions on executive compensation at most firms receiving government aid but instead retain looser requirements initially included in the Treasury's $700 billion rescue program, a source familiar with the deliberations said. Officials are concerned that harsh limits could discourage some firms from asking for aid.

If limiting executive pay is what discourages some from taking TARP money, then they don't really need the money. No? These too-big-to-fail banks have already failed. Only smoke, mirrors, a timid media, and the government are keeping them afloat. If they want another turn at the trough then they must submit to rules. Suck it up or go under. There is no choice here.

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Too funny

By Creature

The Hill: GOP losing patience with Obama, Dem leaders.

Republicans act as if their bad ideas haven't ruled the day for the last eight years.

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The populist president

By Creature

It's good to see a president engaged again. Here's President Obama's weekly address:

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Excellent Bethany McLean interview on PBS' NOW

By LindaBeth

On this week's NOW, host David Brancaccio interviews Bethany McLean (the journalist who broke Enron) about the current financial crisis. I thought it was a really excellent interview, very clear and detailed, and tries to address the complexity of the issues involved.

Also, her February Vanity Fair article can be found here.

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power.)

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Reaction in Review (Jan. 30, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Featuring Creature's Excellent Economic Editorials: "Jobs," "Enough," "Stimulate & invest," "Just the facts," "Shoveling crap to the American taxpayer," "Going directly to the people," and "Quote of the Day," sprinkled liberally throughout the week.


By Capt. Fogg: "GOP heeds the call" -- Fogg examines the election of Michael Steele to be the new head of the Republican party, framing it with a Bob Dylan song.

By Carol Gee: "What did we learn this week?" -- A round-up of a number of significant actions on a number of fronts by our new President, Barack Obama.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "So what about health care reform?" -- Michael predicts, "So, yes, while there are certainly legitimate concerns that health care reform will go nowhere this year, there is reason to be optimistic that Obama's "silence" will end and that, once the economic stimulus package is finally passed, it will be at or near the top of the White House's agenda."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Bush Legacy Watch: Military suicides on the rise" -- Michael initiates the first in another Reaction series, BLW; asking the questions that just will not go away.


By Capt. Fogg: "He's OUT! -- Blagojevich convicted by Illinois Senate, removed from office" -- Fogg's post reports on the governor's ousting just after commuting the sentences of a couple of felons, most ironic.

By Carl: "The sound of one hand clapping" -- Carl's very well written post explores the U.S. House vote on the economic stimulus package and "how bipartisanship died pretty quickly on the Hill."


By Libby Spencer: "The oldest con game in DC" -- Libby urges President Obama to see through the Republican ruse of real bipartisanship on the economic stimulus package.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "House passes stimulus package, Republicans vote against the American people" -- This post is a fine analysis of what was really happening as House Republicans trotted out discredited tax cuts and ignored their President's attempts at bipartisanship.

By Carol Gee: "Congress' Sticky Wickets" -- A post about the difficult or embarrassing problems or situations that Congress is currently facing.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Restoration and Renewal: The self-restraint of the Obama presidency" -- This short post points to an Andrew Sullivan piece that is just wonderful.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Great Depression II; or, why do the Republicans hate America" -- Michael's conclusion, on which many of us could agree, "The Republicans are showing once again who and what they really are: a mean, nasty mob of self-interested, partisan zealots."

By Carl: "Lay me off in fields of clover" -- This magnificently written post should be required reading for people who assume they understand how capitalism works; it includes a good comment thread.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Krazy Bill Kristol heads to WaPo" -- Michael takes off from where Bobby's post began, with a very incisive analysis of the Rightward tilt that is the true reality of the WaPo.

By Mustang Bobby: "Kristol: Exit Stage Right" -- Bobby's brilliant post on William Kristol's short and undistinguished career as a New York Times columnist extolling the virtues of conservatism.

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GOP heeds the call

By Capt. Fogg

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall

For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
I'tll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin.

-- Bob Dylan


Perhaps imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps it's coincidence, perhaps it's desperation, perhaps it's deja vu. After five rounds of balloting, Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is now the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Steele is, for those not familiar with him, an African-American, and while some call him a moderate, others find him staunchly conservative. Whatever he may be, he's a first for the GOP and in my opinion, it's about time.

It's time for something completely different... We're going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community. And we're going to say to friend and foe alike, "We want you to be a part of us, we want you to work with us. And for those of you who are ready to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over,"

said Steele this afternoon. A bit reminiscent of the 1960s' hit Dylan song, if lacking in conviction.

Does this represent the beginning of a new RNC? Is the old order rapidly aging, or is Steele much more of the same old song? He has been a commentator on Fox News and he lead the crowd in cries of "drill baby drill" at the 2008 convention. Is it enough that his ancestry is African to bring more minorities into the GOP, or will a change in complexion not be enough of a change in everything else?

It remains to be seen, but whatever Michael Steele is, he is not Barack Obama, much less Bob Dylan.

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What did we learn this week?

By Carol Gee

"What we don't know about Obama" has diminished just a bit since Jim VandeHei and John Harris' piece in Politico last week (1/22). The authors posed some questions "still left hanging as the Obama administration begins:" Their answers of a week ago make for very good reading. To quote the queries:

  1. Does he really think Afghanistan is winnable?

  2. Do deficits matter?

  3. How fast is too fast in Iraq?

  4. What's in the files?

  5. Do unions wear white hats?

  6. Can U.S. power save Darfur?

  7. How much does he have to placate the Left?

Today's post looks for clues in the news of the past few days that shed further light on the above questions. How is our new President leading, using his powers of persuasion and his deft touch? In a way, his task is as delicate as it would be if he were driving on the ice and snow of the states he declared weather disaster zones, Arkansas and Kentucky. How is he doing? What do we know?

1. Afghanistan? President Obama told the wider Muslim world, "The U.S. is not your enemy" in an Al-Arabiya TV interview. One of President Obama's principles is that we must win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, and of Afghans. This will certainly be a good first step.

2. Deficits? Yesterday's Obama stern lecture to greedy Wall Street executives, calling their $18 B in bonuses "shameful,"# gives a strong clue about how President Obama feels about government waste. He has said repeatedly that the high deficits will be only temporary and that entitlement shortfalls must be addressed next. Time magazine helpfully explains "how to understand a trillion-dollar deficit."#

3. Iraq? President Obama has said he will take "conditions on the ground" into consideration when finalizing the plans for Iraq. Tomorrow is the day set for Iraq's provincial elections. Juan Cole has some thoughts on the implications and possible outcomes of those elections. So we must wait and see what develops.

4. Accountability? There is rather stark contrast between how the new White House plans to deal with official records and how that was done in the Bush White House. ProPublica has published a comprehensive list of the "Missing Memos," in case you are interested. We have yet to see any movement by the new President to hold wrong-doers accountable. But I have not given up hope.

5. Unions? Though President Obama is reportedly considering Republican Senator Judd Gregg for Secretary of Commerce, today he reversed several of the Bush executive orders that have been considered unfriendly to labor.

6. Darfur? Presidential appointee, Susan Rice, U.S. Delegate to the United Nations, has had a powerful passion about the situation in Darfur for quite some time. See The Washington Times -- "Susan Rice offers Obama promise of ‘cooperation’" -- regarding Darfur.

7. Left Dems? Women's groups reportedly were somewhat upset by President Obama's move to get family planning funds removed from the House stimulus package now in the Senate. CQ Politics is currently saying that a coalition of labor unions and liberal advocacy groups will soon start lobbying for a health care system overhaul that would make the government the "single payer." Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore makes a good persuasive argument that Obama's agenda is truly progressive.

Ending on an idealistic note, I want to quote from AlterNet's 1/28/09 story, "The Economic Crisis Isn't All Bad; It's a Chance for Us and Obama to Reimagine How We Live Our Lives."# It begins: "Capitalism is on its knees and now we have a chance to create higher ideals beyond career climbing and mindless consumerism." To continue by quoting the opening:

As America, recession mired, enters the hope-inspired age of Barack Obama, a silent but fateful struggle for the soul of capitalism is being waged. Can the market system finally be made to serve us? Or will we continue to serve it? George W. Bush argued that the crisis is "not a failure of the free-market system, and the answer is not to try to reinvent that system." But while it is going too far to declare that capitalism is dead, George Soros is right when he says that "there is something fundamentally wrong" with the market theory that stands behind the global economy, a "defect" that is "inherent in the system."

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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So what about health care reform?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As is so often the case, Paul Krugman makes a compelling point today:

The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.

Which raises a question: Why has the Obama administration been silent, at least so far, about one of President Obama's key promises during last year's campaign — the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?

I have long made the case -- and I make it partly from first-hand experience living there for many years -- that the U.S. has the best health care in the world... if you can afford it. Which is to say, the actual care aside, the system, one that leaves so many without insurance, and therefore without access, is an embarrassment (to say the least).

If there was ever a time to move forward with large-scale reform, now -- a time of "economic catastrophe" -- is it. On this I agree with Krugman. (Consider that, as the WSJ reported the other day, "[a]t least 25 states have enacted or proposed cuts in health-insurance programs for the poor, potentially leaving millions of patients with reduced levels of care or no coverage at all." -- via TNR's The Treatment)

However, it is not entirely accurate to say that Obama has been silent on the issue. While his focus, and that of his administration, has obviously been primarily on the economy, and on the stimulus package, in the very early days of his presidency, it seems unlikely that there have been no behind-the-scenes discussions both internally and with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

On that front, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has indicated that there might not be any action taken this year -- what's worse, he wants to combine health care reform with an overhaul of Social Security, which could doom reform entirely and/or play right into the hands of Republicans) -- a position backed up by Majority Whip James Clyburn, but Henry Waxman, the influential chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, stated yesterday, definitively, that he intends to take action this year: "This is our time... We need to get this job accomplished this year and get a bill to the president." And Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to agree:

There are some incremental steps that we are taking — first we did SCHIP, then in our economic recovery package, we have money to help stem the tide of people losing health insurance — coverage for Medicaid and COBRA. There is also money for quality, health IT, comparative effectiveness and wellness, and money for prevention. And we will take a major step forward this year to increase the number of people who have healthcare coverage,

declared her office, as reported by The Hill.

Does anyone really believe that Obama isn't somewhere behind all this, given his enthusiastic support for the SCHIP bill, given that reform advocate Tom Daschle is his HHS secretary, and given that he himself is committed to reform.

So, yes, while there are certainly legitimate concerns that health care reform will go nowhere this year, there is reason to be optimistic that Obama's "silence" will end and that, once the economic stimulus package is finally passed, it will be at or near the top of the White House's agenda.

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Bush Legacy Watch: Military suicides on the rise

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Here's the first installment of our BLW. We have many ongoing series here at The Reaction, and this will be one of them.)

According to the AP, "U.S. soldiers killed themselves last year at the highest rate on record, the toll rising for a fourth straight year and even surpassing the suicide rate among comparable civilians."

By "highest rate on record," the AP means since 1980, when "current record-keeping began." Still, needless to say, this is a horrible development, with at least 128 soldiers killing themselves last year -- or 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers. Hopefully the military is serious that "fresh prevention efforts will start next week" and that, generally, a more aggressive approach will be taken to address this growing problem.

But... is it Bush's fault? Is it -- does it deserve to be considered to be -- part of Bush's legacy? Obviously, it isn't all Bush's fault. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there were undoubtedly high suicide rates in the past, and during past wars. Furthermore, there may be a number of reasons for the recent rise.

However, as the AP notes, "[o]fficials have said that troops are under unprecedented stress because of repeated and long tours of duty due to the simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," and the number of suicides has risen yearly since 2004, when there were (just) 64.

While "[o]fficials said they found that the most common factors were soldiers suffering problems with their personal relationships, legal or financial issues and problems on the job," there may be more to it than that: "[T]he magnitude of what the troops are facing in combat shouldn't be forgotten, said Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a former Navy vice admiral, who noted he spoke with a mother this week whose son was preparing for his fifth combat tour. 'This is a tough battle that the individuals are in over there,' Sestak said. 'It's unremitting every day.'" Plus, there is the additional issue of suicides among those who have left the services: "The Department of Veterans Affairs tracks those numbers and says there were 144 suicides among the nearly 500,000 service members who left the military from 2002-2005 after fighting in at least one of the two ongoing wars."

It would be wrong, and irresponsible, to assign too much blame to Bush (and the other architects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), but it does seem to me that some of it, the rise in suicides, is Bush's fault, given the gross mismanagement of the Iraq War, a war of choice, a war the Bush warmongers so badly wanted to fight, even at the expense of the truth, and, with that war going on, the gross negligence of the war in Afghanistan. And it is the conduct of those two wars, notably the Iraq War, a disaster almost from the very start, and certainly once the insurgency and sectarian violence began, that has required extended tours of duty and that has put so many servicemen and -women in such difficult situations both personally and professionally. Is it really any wonder that many of them, having been pushed so far, have broken down and given up?

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"It was a bloodbath." -- Economist Richard Yamarone, reacting to the dismal news that the U.S. economy shrank 3.8 percent in the last quarter of '08 (the worst retraction in a quarter-century).


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John Yoo, torture cheerleader

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think it's hilarious that one of the Bush Administration's leading proponents of torture -- in fact, the very guy, a DoJ official, who wrote the infamous memos that authorized the use of torture -- has come out against Obama's decision to close Gitmo and end the use of torture. That's right, John Yoo, in an op-ed yesterday in the WSJ, argues that "these actions... will also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks."

Really? The U.S. has to torture people to wage the war on terror? How utterly ridiculous -- and yet just more of the same from the people who waged such a flawed war, in the process trampling the Constitution and destroying America's moral credibility and standing around the world. What Yoo clearly wants is for America to be a nation that tortures. And it isn't just him. As Think Progress notes, he "makes it perfectly clear that Bush himself directly and explicitly ordered torture, including the waterboarding of at least three detainees." Yoo wrote the memos, but the decision to torture was made at the highest level.

It's a new day, though, and it is Obama, not Bush, who is making decisions at the highest level. And while a goon like Yoo can lament all he wants in the right-wing pages of the WSJ or in the right-wing corridors of the AEI that all you need is torture and more torture, America is already, just over a week into the Obama presidency, moving past the damage and degradation of the Bush years. At a time of renewal, of a return to America's core principles and of working again towards the realization of her most noble ideals, Yoo's cheerleading is exposed all the more for the barbarism that it is.


For more on Yoo's pro-torture cheerleading, see Larisa Alexandrovna, Stephen Webster at The Raw Story, and Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization.

See also my posts on the un-American constitutionalism of John Yoo, John Yoo's dangerous idiocy, and the crimes of Yoo.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

He's OUT! -- Blagojevich convicted by Illinois Senate, removed from office

By Capt. Fogg

It was unanimous; Rod's out and Quinn's in.

Bye-Bye Blogojevich, seeya later old boyavich. Actually I hope not. The defiant Rod, who was portraying himself in dramatic fashion today as a victim of his own excellence, was stripped of his job and title this evening by the Illinois Senate in a 59-0 vote. Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, Blagojevich's two-time running mate, has been sworn in as the state of Illinois' 41st governor. (I never heard him say "so help me God" either. I can't wait to see if Fox News will accept him.)

Blago commuted the sentences of two felons just before he left the building -- one is a convicted drug dealer who now works as a janitor in the same homeless shelter Mrs. Blogojevich once worked at. His record will be wiped clean, and he may well deserve it. The other is a crooked real estate tycoon who was convicted of theft back in the 1980s. He recently bought Oprah's farm in Indiana, so he can't be doing all that badly. I wonder why he deserves the special favor, don't you?

Anyway, cold as it may be in Springfield, it's time to open the windows and air the place out -- and maybe to count the silverware.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Going directly to the people

By Creature

Republicans had their chance to play nice with the powerful new president, but they refused. Well, payback's a bitch:

More here.

Update: House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) responds:

"Let us be clear: attack ads will not create jobs or help struggling families but will only serve to undermine our nation's desire for bipartisanship. Instead of thinking about winning at any cost, we should all be thinking about creating the jobs Americans need," Cantor intends to say.

Thankfully, Democrats are "thinking about creating the jobs Americans need." I'm not sure what Republicans are thinking about. Hopefully retirement.

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Quotes of the Day: Pelosi and Kerry on partisanship and the stimulus package

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Nancy Pelosi: "I didn't come here to be partisan, I didn't come here to be bipartisan. I came here, as did my colleagues, to be nonpartisan, to work for the American people, to do what is in their interest."

John Kerry: "If Republicans aren't prepared to vote for it, I don't think we should be giving up things, where I think the money can be spent more effectively. If they're not going to vote for it, let's go with a plan that we think is going to work."

They're both right. It's all fine and dandy to talk about bipartisanship, about crossing the aisle, and about seeking compromise -- and I respect Obama for reaching out to Republicans -- but what's the point if the other side isn't willing to play along?

There may be good partisan political reasons why the House Republicans voted against the stimulus package, as Slate's Christopher Beam noted today, but the fact is that they all did. And so with the GOP playing politics, and doing what is or at least what seems to be in its own self-interest, it's time for the Democrats to do what's right for the country without regard for some vaguely mandatory bipartisanship, that is, without having to (or even desiring to, for appearance's sake) secure Republican support beyond what may at a minimum be required (i.e., to block a filibuster in the Senate). Yes, that may still mean reaching out to Republicans, to the few who aren't wedded to ideological extremism and narrow self-interest, but above it means developing the best stimulus package possible.

There is risk involved -- the stimulus package is not overwhelmingly popular and may not even work -- but with leadership comes responsibility, a responsibility, as Pelosi put it, "to work for the American people, to do what is in their interest," even in the face of risk, and certainly in a time of crisis.

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Virginia Foxx

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(More crazy Republicans. More crazy conservatives.)

So you know how no House Republicans voted for the stimulus package yesterday? Well, it's not just that they're a bunch of ideological extremists who hate America, it's that, quite simply, some of them are insane. Take Virginia Foxx, for example -- or don't, it's probably better for your health -- who descended even more deeply than usual into the bowels of partisan delusion. From the NYT (via Scheiber at The Plank):

Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said that former President George Bush's signature tax cuts in 2001 had created years of growth but that the nation's problems started when Democrats regained majorities in Congress in the 2006 elections.

That's right, it's all the Democrats' fault. Everything was hunky-dory up until 2006, with the housing, banking, and manufacturing problems, among others, springing up ex nihilo only after Reid and Pelosi took over. (Scheiber: "So the Democrats came into office and a housing bubble retroactively inflated and began to pop? Mortgage-backed assets worth trillions less than their stated value just magically appeared on bank balance sheets and in hedge fund portfolios?)

Yes, my friends, Virginia Foxx is that crazy. (Assuming that she actually believes this -- but what is there to think that she does not?)

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Shoveling crap to the American taxpayer

By Creature

While I do believe something must be done about the toxic assets that are stinking up (and clogging up) our banking system, I do not believe paying "higher than they will fetch on the open market" is the way to go. If a "bad bank" is going to be set up, fine, just make sure those assets are discounted upon sale and that those who made the deals to acquire these crappy assets do not get to happily move on.

On the other hand, if the Obama administration is so keen on setting up a bank, why not set up a "good bank" that will responsibly loan money and eventually fill the vacuum when Citibank and Bank of America collapse under the weight of their own stupidity.

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The sound of one hand clapping

By Carl

It seems bipartisanship died pretty quickly on the Hill:

WASHINGTON — Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to temper their own differences over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending. [...] Democrats voluntarily dropped from the package several provisions that Republicans had singled out for derision in recent days, including money to restore the Jefferson Memorial and for family planning programs.

You'll hear a lot in the coming weeks from FReepers and their fellow travelers about the domestic spending portions of this package, and of course, the sudden interest in deficits. There will be talk, particularly with regards to the safety net spending portions, like extending unemployment benefits or automatically enrolling the unemployed in Medicaid.

This from a group of people who thought nothing of digging deeply into the national treasury to provide welfare for a people in a land thousands of miles away after we bombed the living crap out of them, shot them up, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and generally made their lives miserable... for nothing!

So naturally, the first question I have to ask is, "Why would you spend half a trillion dollars on a land that you will never ever visit to assist people you will never ever meet, but not a dime to help the family down the block buy a loaf of bread or get a flu shot? Why would you spend a trillion and a half to bailout your banking buddies so they can buy corporate jets or pay
obscene bonuses, but not help a fourth grader keep her clarinet?"

Why do they hate America so?

Naturally, there's a bright side to all this partisan show of hatred for a fairly reasonable-if-massive bill: when it succeeds, the Republicans will be scrambling to explain to constituents why they voted against the very lifeline they ended up depending on, and wouldn't the constituency have gotten an even better deal if their Congresscritter had agreed to go along?

Part of this, I'm sure, is political theatre. Barack Obama, meeting with Capitol Hill Republicans (must have been one of the small conference rooms on the Hill), signaled he'd be willing to adjust some of the tax breaks offered in the package to include small businesses, so long as the Republicans would pony up some of the corporate welfare they've allowed to creep into the budget over the past fourteen years.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-
Pornville) seemed rather hesitant to be cooperative.

Iowa, where men are men and sheep wear IUDs.

The dance begins. The Senate debate on the bill begins in earnest today, but will likely extend into next week. For once, it might be worth tuning in CSPAN and popping up some Orville Redenbacher.

As well, the whole rural/urban split across party lines (rural legislators, Democrats and Republicans, derailed a compromise on the distribution of Medicaid funding) as reported by Politico is probably going to end up in a bit of arm-twisting behind the shed. Clearly, Republicans in Congress feel this is their best weapon in peeling off support for the stimulus package, and it will be interesting to see if Pelosi can marshall her whip (Steny Hoyer) to drag these kids back into the lunch line.

I suspect so. It's early in the term and these folks have a lot of legislatin' to do. Screw around with the signature piece of legislation of this Congress, and you run the risk of losing the party's backing in your re-election,
which most are already running for.

There's a sentiment among conservatives that Americans are "bailed out", that the spending that's already happened has them weary and wary of any new spending proposals.

Silly Charlie Brown conservatives. If anything, people are going to be solidly behind this bill, and will get all over you for supporting Bush's bank bailout bill for taking money that could have been pumped into the economy and wasting it on Falcon jets. And yet, these dimwits report this "sentiment" as if it existed anywhere but in the feeble addlepated minds of Rush and Sean and Lord Coultermort.

If it's a recession when your neighbor loses his job but a depression when you lose yours, then it's a bailout when he gets a check in the mail, but a stimulus package when you do.

And don't feel bad for your banking buddies, Republicans.
I know I don't!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rachel vs. the GOP

By Creature

This is how an educated member of the media confronts Republican spin (hint... with facts):

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The oldest con game in DC

By Libby Spencer

Yes it's the myth of bi-partisanship and for some inexplicable reason the GOPers get to set the rules whether or not they're in power. I understand the lofty ideal that Obama is striving for here, but face it Mr. President, the GOPers cheat. They marked the cards and they're pulling the oldest bluff in the book. So you can pull all the sensible provisions they demand be eliminated, like money for family planning and they're still going to pull that royal flush out of their sleeve when it comes to the roll call.

It's not even about the money:

The Medicaid provision had become controversial over the past few days not because of its monetary value -- in fact, it would save states an estimated $400 million over 10 years -- but because Republicans had loudly moaned that it amounted to "taxpayer funding" for "the abortion industry."

You can try to placate them and take out every piddling thing that will benefit working class people from education funding, to the token few million for the arts and rehabbing the National Mall. You can ante up more of the same failed tax cut strategies that got us into this mess. They're still going to leave you empty handed when it comes to the votes.

Screw bi-partisanship. The GOPers have nothing to gain by helping you and they won't do it. You made a good faith effort. Just call their bluff for a real change. Take ownership of the stimulus, on your own terms, and let the chips fall where they may.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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House passes stimulus package, Republicans vote against helping the American people

By Michael J.W. Stickings


With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama's efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.

The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.

The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.

Read that again: The package includes both spending measures and tax cuts. The American people would get some tax relief, money to save or to spend, perhaps to pay the bills and put food on the table, and money would go to infrastructure projects, for energy and education and health care, to support those who need it, those who have lost their jobs at a time when the economy is bleeding jobs, and down to states and municipalities, to levels of government on the front lines of service provision.

You know what? It's not just about stimulating the economy, it's about helping people. It's responsive, responsible government action at a time when government action is desperately needed.

And, in the House, every single Republican voted against it.


So much for bipartisan outreach. So much for Obama's efforts to be inclusive and to seek compromise with the other side. All the Republicans could offer was the same old tired formula of tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts, and, when it came right down to it, when it came time to pick a side, the Republicans sided, in unison, against the American people and the American economy.

Don't get me wrong. Like many others, I actually think there's a need for a much, much larger stimulus package. I would even argue (as I did here, yesterday, where I wrote that the Republicans -- "a mean, nasty mob of self-interested, partisan zealots" -- seem to hate America) that Obama and the Democrats should now do what needs to be done -- that is, pass a bigger, better stimulus package -- without bothering to engage in what has proven to be fruitless bipartisanship, that is, without reaching across the aisle and seeking GOP support. After all, if the Republicans aren't interested in helping the American people, why should the Democrats waste their time with them? The Senate is not the House, though, and it is perhaps there that Obama and the Democrats can secure some Republican support, which, if nothing else, would improve the optics of the stimulus package. As silly as it may be, or seem, given the ideological extremism of the House Republicans, it is still in Obama's interest that the package not be, and not be perceived to be, a purely partisan effort.

For now, though, the Republicans' true colours are bright and clear. They may wrap themselves in the flag, and they may play the patriotism card whenever and wherever possible, but they're actually the anti-American party. At a time when the American people need help, and when the new president and the majority party are willing and eager to rise above partisanship, the House Republicans, once again, put themselves before all else.

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Congress' sticky wickets

By Carol Gee

Difficult or embarrassing problems or situations are the subject of today's Congress post. Ranging from independent-minded committee chairs, to problems associated with lobbying and congressional leadership issues, to pay raises, there are lots of sticky wickets.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers (D-Mich), has sent a subpoena to Karl Rove. Conyers wants deposition testimony on Feb. 2, according to Yahoo! News,# "about the Bush administration's firing of nine U.S. attorneys and its prosecution of a former Democratic governor," Don Seigelman. "Moving forward" has been the philisophical view preferred by President Obama, as well as the House and Senate leadership. "Accountability" is the view adopted by Representative Conyers.

Robert Gates' choice on the line -- William Lynn's nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Defense and CEO of the DoD is being held up by the Senate Armed Services Committee, pending the issuance of a lobbying rules waiver by the White House. Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) expressed concerns. To quote from the Congressional Quarterly story:

A Senate panel’s vote on the nomination of William Lynn to become deputy Defense secretary is on hold pending White House details on how to exempt him from new lobbying rules.

The nomination of Lynn, who lobbied for defense contractor Raytheon Co. into 2008, has come under fire because his recent lobbying work violates the new ethics rules signed by President Obama on Jan. 21. The White House is expected to issue a waiver for Lynn soon, but the details are still pending.

. . . Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called Thursday on the Senate to confirm Lynn “as swiftly as possible” and said he urged the Obama team not to let the Raytheon connection block the Lynn nomination.

“I asked that an exception be made, because I felt that he could play the role of deputy in a better manner than anybody else that I saw,” Gates said.

Where are the earmarks -- Yahoo! News has the story of what may be happening to the President's stimulus package as the result of lobbyists' ability to skirt the earmark# ban imposed on the bill. To quote:

President Barack Obama's ban on earmarks in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill doesn't mean interest groups, lobbyists and lawmakers won't be able to funnel money to pet projects. They're just working around it — and perhaps inadvertently making the process more secretive.

. . .There are thousands of projects like those that once would have been gotten money upfront but now are left to scramble for dollars at the back end of the process as "ready to go" jobs eligible for the stimulus plan. The result, as The Associated Press learned in interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and state and local officials, is a shadowy lobbying effort that may make it difficult to discern how hundreds of billions in federal money will be parceled out.

. . . Obama, who campaigned promising a more transparent and accountable government, is advocating a system that will eventually let the public track exactly where stimulus money goes through an Internet-powered search engine. In addition, Democratic lawmakers have devised an elaborate oversight system, including a new board to review how the money is spent.

Pay rates increasingly frozen -- Politico reports that Congress may soon freeze its own salaries. During the past 20 years Congressional pay was frozen at various times, but has enjoyed cost of living increases in the most recent years:

. . . low congressional poll ratings and rising unemployment rates make for a toxic political mix. Plus, Obama’s call for sacrifice in his inaugural address, together with his staff pay freeze, is going to make the size of congressional paychecks fair game.

President Obama's negotiating tactics, according to the Congressional Quarterly, could put strain on the ties between Senate Minority Leader Mitch MConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner. To quote:

A push by President Obama to cut deals in the Senate is likely to put increased stress on relations between House Minority Leader John A. Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell.

While McConnell, R-Ky., quickly opened quiet talks with the new White House on a range of issues, Boehner, R-Ohio, has taken a tougher approach and has recently moved with mixed success to begin a dialog with Obama. The president met with leaders of both parties Jan. 23 and plans to discuss the stimulus with Republicans during a visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Obama’s plan is to begin his term with bipartisan legislation that could help generate momentum for his most difficult objectives — overhauls of health care and entitlements. But it remains unclear whether Obama will press for deals with Republicans in both chambers or focus instead on the Senate, where some bipartisan support will be essential.

Cleaning up the mess in Congress will take some time, if it ever happens. Right now critical economic issues are at the forefront on legislators minds. Most, if not all, of the main confirmations are over. Bipartisanship would be tested yesterday as President Obama went to the Hill to meet only with Republicans. It was fun to watch. Today the House will pass the package, but with almost no help from the Republicans.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Restoration and renewal: The self-restraint of the Obama presidency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent post up on one of the key differences, perhaps the overarching one, between Obama, whom he dubs "The Presider," and Bush, who dubbed himself "The Decider":

If Bush was about the presidency as power, Obama is about the presidency as authority. It's fascinating to watch this deep difference in understanding slowly but unmistakably realize itself in public actions. Somewhere the Founders are smiling. The system is correcting itself after one of the most unbalanced periods in American history. But it took the self-restraint of one man to do it.

Make sure to read the whole thing.

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Just the facts, please

By Creature

Josh Marshall is right. Republicans will lie and make ridiculous statements about all aspects of the stimulus bill because their lies and ridiculous statements are not corrected by a lazy, complicit, starstruck media. We saw this throughout the Bush years and the only example of it not being true was for a brief moment when a good number of comments made by John McCain and Sarah Palin during the campaign were exposed for the ridiculousness contained within. There needs to be some sort of continuing education for all media types. Well, it's either that, or give them a pink slip and re-train them for a different, less consequential, career.

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Nom nom nom

By Carl

It's fun to juxtapose stories!

Item 1-

"I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach," Gingrey said. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

Asked to respond to Gingrey, Limbaugh, in an email to Politico, wrote: "I'm sure he is doing his best but it does not appear to be good enough. He may not have noticed that the number of Republican colleagues he has in the House has dwindled. And they will dwindle more if he and his friends don't show more leadership and effectiveness in battling the most left-wing agenda in modern history. And they won't continue to lose because of me, but because of their relationship with the grassroots, which is hurting. Conservatives want leadership from those who claim to represent them. And we'll know it when we see it."

Item 2 -

As they begin meeting in Washington today, many members of the Republican National Committee are focusing their ire against what they considered George W. Bush's anti-conservative policies and trying to dump the man he tapped to run the GOP.

[...]Duncan "has never criticized Bush when the president was wrong," said Shawn Steel, an RNC member from California. "He's the agent of the establishment, and we need a change in personnel."

Can't you just feel the love?

I have a reminder for the Limbaughs and the arch-conservative right wing of the Republican party:

Actually, for Limbaugh, a more appropriate reminder might be

The trouble with revolutions egged on by people who are fraudulently interested "in the common good" is that eventually the masses find out the true nature of the "leadership" and rebel. Marat, for example, was stabbed to death by an admirer, Charlotte Corday, after his influence in the Revolution and the Reign Of Terror had waned.

Much like Limbaugh's position today, Marat had aligned himself with a lucky star in Robespierre, but once on the tiger, had to hold on literally for dear life and was unable to. That hard stuff you feel under your flabby ass, Rush? That's the ground. The tiger is turning. Too bad you can't run very fast, isn't it?

Similarly, Robespierre was an ideologue, much like Limba -- I mean, Marat. Much like the GOP, Robespierre was accused of tyranny and dictatorship after he passed laws that effectively barred citizens from their rights and established networks of spies that would act without regard for the truth to "protect the people." The Patriot Act, anyone?

Like the GOP, Robespierre tried to instill a quasi-religious governing policy, putting God (actually, Être suprême or Supreme Being) into the French constitution.

Like the GOP, Robespierre tried to stamp out the only real political opposition he faced, the Hébertists.

And like the GOP, Robespierre was ultimately beheaded when the people realized that he was worse than the royalty he had replaced! This after the people had been terrified into order, threatened with wolves at the door, and subsumed into complicity with the Reign of Terror.

Life is fractal, and in this instance, the larger playwright of the French Revolution has writ small, tiny, insignificant, the future of the GOP.

We are watching the GOP now eat itself, much as the Jacobins (ironically, also called Republicans) of Robespierre did, in the individual quest for power in the wake of the loss of their leadership.

Oh... keep in mind that, while the Repub-- er, Jacobins, were cannibalizing themselves, a figure arose out of the ranks: a fairly low ranking officer with little political experience who would lead France to her greatest glory ever.

Life does present us with unusual parallels, does it not?

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Stimulate and invest

By Creature

I'm with the left-leaning Democrats here, go bigger. Keep the money for government programs and add to it a few more billion for "long-lasting infrastructure investments." What's another few billion at this point?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great Depression II; or, why do the Republicans hate America?

By Michael J.W. Stickings


The nation's current recession is likely to be the longest since World War II, and by some measures could be the worst since the Great Depression, a new Congressional Budget Office forecast said Tuesday.

Without a major economic stimulus plan, "the shortfall in the nation's output relative to its potential would be the largest – in terms of both length and depth – since the Depression of the 1930s," said new CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in testimony prepared for the House Budget Committee.

The analysis is sure to add important momentum to the effort to enact an $825 billion stimulus by mid-February. President Barack Obama is meeting Tuesday morning with House Republicans and plans to meet with Senate GOP members in early afternoon. The nonpartisan CBO is highly regarded by both parties.

Momentum may be added, yes, and the CBO may indeed be highly regarded, but, if the Republicans have their way -- and, thankfully, they won't -- there won't be any stimulus package.

"Republicans find their voice," contends Politico, playing up GOP unity, but it's the voice of right-wing ideology and obstructionism at a time when Americans are suffering and need help. In the House, where there is far more extremism among Republicans than in the Senate, the two top Republicans, Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor, again according to Politico, "told their rank-and-file members [this] morning during a closed-door meeting to oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday. Boehner told members that he's voting against the stimulus, and Cantor told the assembled Republicans that there wasn't any reason for them to support the measure."

Really? There's no reason to support the stimulus package? Not even to boost an economy that is bleeding jobs, to pull the country out of what is shaping up as the Great Depression II, to help Americans put food on the table, pay the bills, and support their children?

Seriously, why do these Republicans hate America so? Why are they such a bunch of selfish pricks? Democrats, if I remember correctly, rallied around Bush after 9/11, though it was Bush and the Republicans who partisanized the resulting war on terror? Why are Republicans not putting country first now?

But maybe some good will come of this. As Creature put it earlier today: "Since it is now crystal clear that the GOP will oppose any, I repeat, any, stimulus bill that comes before them, it's time to write a bill that gives them no concessions and even less consideration. It's time to ram a Democratic bill through and twist one, or two, moderate GOP arms and be done with this bi-partisan madness."

Basically, it's time for a "better bill," in Steve Benen's words: "The White House has been willing to make all kinds of concessions to win over Republican support, but it's not enough. Since the GOP is going to vote 'no' anyway, why not make the bill as effective and progressive as possible? If there's no point in the majority party offering unwelcome enticements to those who'll remain obstinate anyway, then pull the enticements and let the majority party do the right thing."

The Republicans are showing once again who and what they really are: a mean, nasty mob of self-interested, partisan zealots. At a time when it's essential to do what is right for America, and for the American people, Obama and the Democrats will have to do it themselves.

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Lay me off in fields of clover

By Carl

It's getting kind of silly out there:

Furloughs, wage reductions, hiring freezes and shorter hours simply did not do enough. A year into this recession, companies across the board are resorting to mass job cuts.

Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel and at least eight other companies announced on Monday they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the United States and around the world — a gloomy start to the workweek for employees anxious about holding their own as the economy sinks. Caterpillar, the maker of heavy equipment, is slashing its payrolls by 16 percent. Texas Instruments said late in the day that it would eliminate 3,400 jobs, or 12 percent of its work force.

Jobs began disappearing in home building and mortgage operations early in the recession, then across finance and banking more generally. Now the ax is falling across large swaths of manufacturing, retailing and information technology, taking out workers from New York to Seattle. Just last week,
Microsoft announced its first significant job cuts ever.

-- November 18, 2008: "At Home Depot, profit for the three months that ended Nov. 2 was $756 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with $1.09 billion, or 60 cents a share, for the period a year ago. Even so, that was better than Wall Street expected. Sales at stores open at least a year declined by 8.3 percent, compared with a drop of 6.2 percent a year ago."

-- January 22, 2009: "Microsoft Corp. today announced revenue of $16.63 billion for the second quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, a 2% increase over the same period of the prior year. Operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.94 billion, $4.17 billion and $0.47, declines of 8%, 11% and 6%, respectively, compared with the prior year."

-- January 26, 2009: "Caterpillar, an economic bellwether and component of the Dow Jones industrial average, reported fourth-quarter earnings of $661 million, or $1.08 per share, on Monday, down from $975 million, or $1.50 per share, a year earlier. Overall sales rose 6 percent to $12.92 billion. Analysts, on average, expected earnings of $1.31 per share on revenue of $12.84 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters."

-- January 26, 2009: "Texas Instruments Incorporated today announced fourth-quarter revenue of $2.49 billion, net income of $107 million and earnings per share (EPS) of $0.08. These financial results include restructuring charges of $0.13 per share. Without the charges, EPS would have been $0.21, considerably better than the company's mid-quarter expectations."

Sprint-Nextel, to be fair, is struggling with enormous debt racked up when Sprint bought Nextel, coupled with the unfortunately timing of the maturity of that debt, last November, when credit markets were their tightest and refinancing almost impossible.

So, apart from Sprint, which doesn't report earnings until next month, ALL OF THESE COMPANIES EARNED MONEY IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF THIS HORRIBLE BUSH DEPRESSION!

A caveat: Just because a company makes money, I am not advocating that all attempts to save money or improve efficiencies and/or earnings should cease. I do not have a crystal ball on any one particular company, nor do I know what their internal projections show. Indeed, some of these earnings listed here may have been inflated by one-off, non-operating revenues, like the disposal of a subsidiary or a currency exchange effect. I don't know. I'm going to address this in generalities, tho.

This leads me to the point of this article: loyalty. Specifically, the objectives of business in an economic downturn. Caterpillar withstanding, none of these businesses has been through a real economic doldrum.

The main objective of a business in America is to earn a profit. I think we can agree on that, and, further, we can agree this is a good thing: Profits mean more business, more business means more jobs, more jobs means more people eating dinner as opposed to starving.

Companies expect loyalty from their employees in exchange for providing a job: that means you won't up and steal their products to sell yourself, you'll show up on time to work, and focus on your work. That should be the minimum contract, right? They have you from 9 to 5, you promise to give them 100% during those hours.

As we all know, that's not how it works: you work overtime. Or you have to do your banking during work hours, because your banker is only available at that time. Your kid gets sick. Your boss needs you to skip lunch for a project.

At the end of the day, these should all balance out. At the end of the day, you should be able to go home knowing you have a job tomorrow morning because you did a good job today.

Ah, but the truth is, your loyalty is only part of the company's equation.

The company has to obey society's laws, too, for example.

A more important loyalty lies someplace else, however: the stockholders. And here's the rub. So long as American society judges a company based on its stock price and performance only, workers will have the short end of the stick.

If stockholders don't like the performance of a particular stock, they will sell those shares and buy one that performs to their expectations. In effect, your work decisions can be countermanned by any number of shareholders deciding that you are not working hard enough. The stock price drops, the company, despite earning a profit, looks to shore up that price, and the two quickest ways to do that are to cut expenses or buy their own shares back.

If you don't believe me, here's a prediction: Of the five companies named in the article I linked to, only Sprint's shares will experience no rise today. They may not all finish up above their close of yesterday, but they will all spend some time above that share price.

Cutting expenses, in most industries, means cutting into the largest expense area: salaries. And that means job losses.

Never mind that your firm made $661 million dollars in just three months. Never mind that $661 million probably more than pays the annual salaries plus benefits of every single employee about to be laid off. The market has decided that $661 million wasn't enough. You'll have to go.

And there's the basic unfairness of the worker-employee contract: when you quit, you're expected to give two weeks notice and help train, if possible, your replacement. If the company lets you go, it's considered a benefit (and possible waste of money, from the shareholder's POV) to find you a new job or at least help pay for you to train for a new job.

And in truth, it really should be an obligation.

No, it should be considered an obligation to do as much as possible to keep you in your job. That would be a fair employment contract.

Why? Simple. Your life pretty much revolves around that job. You sleep one-third of your life away. Similarly, you work one-third of your life to pay for your bed, and for whatever else you do with the final third of your day. That means you've invested, just like a shareholder, in your company.

Indeed, the more progressive companies consider shareholders and employees as equals, and group them together as "stakeholders".

How to change this? It isn't going to be easy, but President Obama's plan to push the
Employee Free Choice Act is a hopeful sign.

That's right: unions. Now many on the right, and too many on the left, will talk about how unions are evil, inefficient creations. And there's some truth to this: unions have a pretty ugly history of corruption, greed, theft, and obstruction.

They also provided you with your two weeks' vacation, your paid sick days, health insurance, 40 hour work week, health and safety regulations, and so on.

Indeed, unions are about the only tool at the worker's disposal to make sure he or she gets a fair shake in the employment contract. Think about it: it's you versus this large, multi-headed hydra of life-sapping commerce. Who do you think is going to win, unless you find allies?

If business behaved in an ethical manner, well, we wouldn't be in this particular mess. CEOs of banks wouldn't be greedy, wouldn't be answering to shareholders about how the other guy is lending money hand over fist and earning much more, even if it's from people who's credit is less than prime risk. CEOs would merely point out to shareholders that they are protecting their investments.

Which they would now, of course, be perfectly within their rights to do. But barn door after the horse has run out.

And if businesses behaved in an ethical manner, the people getting laid off now probably wouldn't, since there's a higher loyalty, to the nation as a whole, that these businesses ought to recognize. Laying people off now, when you're making a perfectly good profit, is a bad idea. It's anti-American, it makes the depression that much worse by forcing people to go on the public dole, and it disrespects the government's attempts to help out the truly needy by dumping more of them on the pile.

This must change.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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