Thanks For Nothing (Bipartisan Bullshittery Edition)

by matttbastard

So, after having “cut some stuff just to say that they had cut some stuff” from President Obama’s recovery plan, as publius aptly summed up last night’s contentious-yet-self-congratulatory bipartisan circle jerk, what exactly are we (the people) left with?

Paul Krugman:

[T]he centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.

Heck of a motherfucking job, kiddies.

h/t Joe Trippi via Twitter

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U.S. Senate Reaches Tenative Deal on Recovery Package. Yay?

by matttbastard

Oh, joy — ‘moderation’ once again rules the day in Washington:

U.S. senators began debate on a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening, after a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version.

[…]

The movement came after days of private meetings between centrist Democrats and Republicans who felt the price tag on the Senate’s nearly $900 billion version of the package was too much.

“There is a winner tonight,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and one of the moderates whose support was crucial in building support for the plan. “It’s the American people and they deserve it.”

[…]

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $827 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.

“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began.

But, as John Nichols points out:

[I]n order to get two Republican votes (those of Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) that were needed to break a threatened GOP filibuster, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid surrendered an estimated $110 billion is proposed stimulus spending. In doing so, they cut not just fat but bone.

Fat, bone and taxes–Nichols reports that tax cuts now account for “40 percent of the overall cost of the package,” a counterproductive conciliatory gesture that Nichols warns “will do little or nothing to stimulate job creation for a country than lost almost 600,000 positions in January alone.”

Just how much bone was shaved off to prevent a (potential!) GOP filibuster?

The bottom line is that, under the Senate plan:

* States will get less aid.

* Schools will get less help.

* Job creation programs will be less well funded.

* Preparations to combat potential public health disasters — which could put the final nail in the economy’s coffin — will not be made.

In every sense, the Senate plan moves in the wrong direction.

At a time when smart economists are saying that a bigger, bolder stimulus plan is needed, Senate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans have agreed to a smaller, weaker initiative.

Something may indeed be better than nothing, and politics is nothing if not the art of the compromise, but, like Nichols, I’m finding it difficult to join in on the bipartisan fetish party. As President Obama aptly put it this past Thursday while rhetorically addressing “critics who complain ” “this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill,’ What do you think a stimulus is [emph. mine]? That’s the whole point. No, seriously, that’s the point.””

Well, apparently the President’s point was a bit too fine for the “moderates” in the Senate to fully appreciate. Perhaps Steven Pearlstein’s modest proposal to provide lawmakers with “economic personal trainers” should be seriously considered when the freshly-‘moderated’ recovery plan finally makes it to conference committee.

Related: Congressional Quarterly runs down the various amendments that were voted on throughout Friday evening. My personal favourite: David Vitter’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to keep funds away from those evil Marxists in ACORN (SHRIEK!)

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Action Alert: Fight Back Against GOP Attempts to Scuttle Hilda Solis’ Nomination

by matttbastard

ZP Heller @ OpenLeft:

The Senate Labor committee postponed [Hilda] Solis’ nomination yesterday because of a recent USA Today report about her husband’s outstanding California tax liens. (NOTE: it was her husband’s auto repair business, not anything to do with Solis herself.)  Though the tax liens have since been repaid, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and his Republican cohorts are still delaying the confirmation vote, claiming they need to investigate Solis’ involvement with American Rights at Work (ARAW), a pro-labor non-profit.  But this really boils down to the GOP’s inherent fears over the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill Solis co-sponsored in the House that would enable workers to unionize more easily and negotiate for equitable wages and benefits and safer working conditions.

[…]

Solis might understand the needs of workers better than anyone in Congress. There’s no question she could help ensure President Obama’s plan to create 3.6 million jobs by next year actually happens.  We must fight like hell to get her approved. Join this Facebook page and help confirm Hilda Solis now. Then, sign American Rights at Work’s petition to support the Employee Free Choice, where you snag their Employee Free Choice widget for your own personal blog.

Go.

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Hey, What’s the Rush?

by matttbastard

Nearly 600, 000 American jobs were lost in the month of December, the largest single month loss since 1974.  These latest figures bring the total number of jobs shed in the last 3 months to 1.8 million.  As a result, the US unemployment rate is now pushing 8%.

Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com puts those numbers into proper context:

As bad as the unemployment rate was, it only tells part of the story for people struggling to find jobs. Friday’s report also showed that 2.6 million people have now been out of work for more than six months, the most long-term unemployed since 1983.

And that number only counts those still looking for work. The so-called underemployment rate, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people working only part-time that want full-time positions, climbed to 13.9% from 13.5% in December. That is the highest rate for this measure since the Labor Department first started tracking it in 1994.

Absolutely “devastating”, as President Obama just observed during a news conference introducing his new emergency economic advisory board.

Yet, as Ali Frick at Think Progress acidly points out, “Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there’s no rush to help them.”

Watch it:

Transcript:

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.

ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way.

JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It’s still time. There is no hurry.

TOM COBURN (R-OK): There’s no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There’s no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the [American] people know about it.

Paul Krugman doesn’t mince words in his column today:

Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

[…]

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

As Obama put it in a speech to Democratic lawmakers last night (h/t Steve Benen), “[Y]ou get the argument, ‘Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”

Watch it:

Benen further notes that “The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin said that the president’s urgent tone was “reminiscent of the final days of the campaign.” It was actually more than just reminiscent — at one point, Obama literally asked lawmakers, “Fired up?” They shouted back, “Ready to go!“”

So, let’s go.  Now.

Take action: Contact your senator and demand they cease with the tiresome, frivolous political theatrics and pass this recovery package intact (not a watered-down goddamn bullshit “moderate” compromise version) ASAP.

Go.

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Fed Lends Two Trillion Without Oversight

by matttbastard

American News Project:

So, you know about the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout plan. But you probably don’t know that the Federal Reserve has lent out $2 trillion since September. Few do. And that is what’s irritating bulldog Congressman Alan Grayson. Will he be able to shed a light on the Fed’s secret spending?

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GOP Dominates Stimulus Debate 2:1 on Cable News: Think Progress

by matttbastard

Oh, that liberal media!

Yes, kids, this really is what they call “balance” in corporate media newspeak. We should all be thankful that cable news programming directors are encouraging such a stimulating (snerk) debate as the president attempts to unshit the bed that (too many years) of GOP rule and freemarket orthodoxy has left soiled beyond recognition.

As Digby put it, “If I didn’t follow politics closely, I would think these people [Republicans] are the ones who won the election.”

x-posted @ Rebel Left

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Razing the Project to Save It

by matttbastard

broadmoorpolaroid1

(Photo by Infrogmation, used under a GNU Free Documentation License)

With the advent of a new administration in Washington providing the long-beleaguered citizens of New Orleans, LA a new sense of hope (no doubt increased upon hearing that the President has promised to visit the region) it’s easy for us to forget (too easy to forget) that there are still thousands of residents still displaced from their homes, perhaps permanently.  And, if decisions like the following continue to be made (purportedly on their behalf *cough*) many will have f0rever lost what little remains:

A judge didn’t abuse his discretion when he refused to halt the demolition of four public housing complexes in New Orleans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A group of displaced public housing residents had asked U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in June 2006 to block plans to demolish and redevelop the B.W. Cooper, C.J. Peete, St. Bernard and Lafitte developments. Lemelle denied their request, a ruling upheld Monday by a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

[…]

Three developments have been totally razed, while the demolition of the fourth is under way. The demolition project spawned a round of demonstrations in New Orleans, including a December 2007 melee at City Hall where police used pepper spray and stun devices to disperse a crowd of protesters.

[…]

“Numerous reports showed that the buildings were obsolete, dilapidated, and unsuitable for housing purposes,” Judge Emilio Garza wrote in the court’s 14-page opinion.

Yes, so, in order to save these projects, these people’s homes,  let’s completely raze them to the ground.  Because no buildings are so much more suitable for living in. Sorry, but, “comparable housing” is not remotely adequate (let alone, er, comparable) when “redevelopment plans leave several thousand families without access to affordable housing [emph. mine].”

Loyola University professor Bill Quigley highlights the bottom line this decision once again underscores:

“At this moment, (the 5th Circuit is) saying that the tragedy to these 5,000 families from Katrina is permanent,” Quigley said. “The fight has always been whether these 5,000 families get to come back to some sort of public housing in New Orleans. The position of the government has been that they don’t.”

The dizzy counterspin from HUD’s spokesmonkey is particularly nauseating:

“This ruling is a win for the families who will return to new, socially and economically integrated neighborhoods, and it’s a win for the city of New Orleans because of the affordable housing component of each of the new developments.”

Yes, well, what about those families who, um, won’t return to ‘socially and economically integrated neighbourhoods’? How can losing everything all over again, having their dreams razed along with their fucking homes even begin to count as a victory?  Even George W. Bush wouldn’t have the fucking nerve to hastily throw up a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner behind this one.

Unfortunately there isn’t much one can do to affect court decisions.  But one can pressure Congress to allocate desperately needed funding for NOLA and draw attention to a situation that has been allowed to fester below the radar for far too long. Sarah J notes that “Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter have requested funding for “more than $6 billion in coastal restoration and levee construction projects in an economic stimulus bill now moving through Congress”“, making it even more important that Americans contact their Congresscritters and demand that, as the US moves towards revitalizing delapidated national infrastructure, the people of NOLA are not forgotten ever again by their government, their fellow citizens.

As I wrote in comments @ Alterdestiny:

“[W]e… need to purge the guilt and start doing something proactive. Poppy Z. Brite’s powerful 2006 Banned Books Night speech is even more pertinent, more vital, today:

If you live here, stay and give it all you can. If you live elsewhere, please don’t let people forget us. Don’t let your government forget us. Tell them to put money into wetlands restoration, to give us the levees we were told we already had, to rebuild the homes and businesses destroyed by their lying negligence. Tell them we are as valuable as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or A Confederacy of Dunces or A Streetcar Named Desire. Tell them those three banned and cherished books would never have existed without us. Tell them we will never die easy, and if we do die, we will be the most haunted place in the world.

NOLA has not yet been completely “banned”, as Brite devastatingly characterized it, but it won’t be fully re-enfranchised unless we increase the pressure on Washington.

Je me souviens.

(Major h/t and heartfelt thanks to Sarah J for links and inspiration.)

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Lilly Ledbetter Act (Finally) Passes US Senate

by matttbastard

Well it’s about damn time:

The Senate approved landmark worker rights legislation on Thursday that will make it easier for those who think they’ve endured pay discrimination to seek legal help. The vote was 61-36.

The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on January 9, three days after the 111th Congress convened. Because the Senate made modest changes in the House version, the House must pass it again. Once it does, as is assured, this will be one of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs into law.

Steve Benen patiently explains why this is a good thing (just in case it wasn’t immediately obvious):

To hear opponents of the bill tell it, making it easier to challenge pay discrimination will lead to more lawsuits. That’s almost certainly true. But therein lies the point — if American workers are facing unjust wage discrimination, there should be more lawsuits. Those are worthwhile lawsuits, challenging an injustice. Ideally, employers would stop discriminating, as most already do, and in turn, there’d be fewer lawsuits.

Liss says that “Lilly Ledbetter has reportedly already been invited by President Obama to appear at the White House for the signing ceremony.” If so, that would be yet another politically astute symbolic gesture on the part of the new executive.  Let’s hope it works out.  Ledbetter has more than  earned a place at the President’s side.

Oh, and to the 36 Republicans who voted against this bill and in favour of discrimination against 51% of the US population, a message of post-partisan comity and respect for ideological difference, on behalf of the women of America:

natodutch

Now that gives me hope for the future.

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Post-partisan Ass-covering

by matttbastard

Paul Krugman wades into the ongoing debate over whether Obama should look back or move forward with regards to extra-legal activities on the part of the outgoing administration:

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

[…]

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

First, let me make it clear that my sentiments directly and unequivocally intersect with Krugman’s, as outlined in this post. With that said, I’m all-too pessimistic about the likelihood of any serious investigations taking place. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes, members of the party that currently controls both branches of Congress (including and especially its leadership) also have bloodstained hands:

The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the “Protect America Act.” This put the Congressional stamp of approval on what Bush did and actually expanded his powers to snoop. The targets weren’t just foreign terror suspects and known operatives but American citizens. Democrats knew this and approved it by inserting in the law open ended wording that permitted legalized spying on anyone outside the U.S. who intelligence agencies “reasonably believed” to posses foreign intelligence information. The law deliberately made no distinction about exactly who the target could be. Then there was the infamous clause that granted immunity from lawsuits to communications service providers that made Bush snooping possible. With no fear or threat of legal action against the companies, the wraps were legally off on who could be snooped on. As an added sweetener the law also gave Bush emergency power to tap for up to a week anyone deemed a terror threat; all without a warrant.

And one can’t forget about the CIA’s torture enhanced interrogation program, of which top-level Democratic members of the House and Senate were informed early on of what was going on, yet at the time chose to do nothing. So, with all due respect to people like John Conyers Jr., any attempt to cast the spotlight on the many, many crimes committed over the past decade and hold everyone who is responsible accountable is, I fear, ultimately a futile pursuit. Forgive and (most importantly) forget will be the mantra that the Washington establishment continues to embrace, purely out of an unhealthy, cynical, yet entirely understandable bipartisan sense of self-preservation.

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Hey, George–Your Class Privilege is Showing.

by matttbastard

Champagne socialist George Monbiot to North American auto workers:

Drop dead.”

bfp to privileged asshole douchebags like Georgie:

Fuck you!

Related: Mitch Albom (yes, that Mitch Albom) goes off on the same “Republican nutcases” in Congress who have Georgie gushing:

In a world where banks hemorrhaged trillions in a high-priced gamble called credit derivative swaps that YOU failed to regulate, how on earth do WE need to be punished? In a bailout era where you shoveled billions, with no demands, to banks and financial firms, why do WE need to be schooled on how to run a business?

Who is more dysfunctional in business than YOU? Who blows more money? Who wastes more trillions on favors, payback and pork?

At least in the auto industry, if folks don’t like what you make, they don’t have to buy it. In government, even your worst mistakes, we have to live with.

And now Detroit should die with this?

h/t bfp

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