Perspective.

by matttbastard

I  stand by my previously expressed policy objections to the compromised Senate version of the recovery plan. I also still think the ‘moderate’ Kabuki performance that apparently trumped the real-world consequences of cutting funds to the states was despicable (but, hey, as long as the ‘workhorses’ keep garnering kudos from the Village).  Hopefully a lot of what was stripped from the bill is put back in when it goes to conference committee.

With that said, the following graphic illustrates why, considering how urgent it is to pass a recovery plan as soon as possible,  something is better than nothing (literally):

jobs

(h/t)

Related: Americans United for Change launch radio ads praising Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe  for “providing the leadership we need to get the job done” and helping the Senate “reach agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups — including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor.”

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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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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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Dear Michael Ignatieff

"We will be watching like HAWKS!" Considering the Iraq support and torture apology, I believe him.

FUCK yo’ couch.

love,

matttbastard

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Federal Budget 2009: No Room For Women at the Table

by matttbastard

Following several days of strategically-timed leaks to the press, the Stephen Harper Party has finally tabled its stimulus budget, which, according to the Canadian Press, “submerges Canada in a sea of red ink after more than a decade of clear fiscal sailing.”  Indeed, it seems that Jim Flaherty has finally embraced his inner Keynesian, after years of hiding it beneath Milton Friedman’s long shadow:

The Tories are doling out nearly $20-billion – or half the stimulus package – to spur immediate spending on infrastructure projects and home construction.

Nearly $12-billion federal dollars will be made available for “shovel-ready” public works projects across Canada that can be commenced quickly, but there’s a catch. Provinces and municipalities will have to contribute nearly $9-billion more in order to get the roads, bridges and sewer upgrade work started.

Cost-shared projects the Tories are eying include: revitalizing Union Station in Toronto, the Evergreen transit line in Vancouver, road upgrades in Quebec City and the Summerside wind energy project on Prince Edward Island.

[…]

Infrastructure spending alone won’t keep all the building trades in Canada busy though and Ottawa has allocated $7.8-billion for other construction activity – to renovate and upgrade housing.

This includes $3-billion it expects to spend giving out tax breaks for the temporary home renovation credit as well as $1-billion in outlays to fund renovations and retrofits of social housing. Ottawa will also spend $400-million on new home construction for low-income seniors, $400-million on first nations reserve housing and $200-million for building northern residences.

Of course, all that spending (and tax cuts) comes at a cost (er…you know what I mean):

Ottawa is forecast to add $85-billion to the debt between now and 2012-13, eroding much of the debt-reduction achievements of the past decade. Current and former governments have shaved $105-billion from the national debt since the late 1990s by using surpluses to retire obligations owing.

Yet out of all the ‘pragmatic’ concessions made by the Harper conservatives that fly in the face of their purported ideological ‘principles’ (a practice the Harpercons have been perfecting recently) there’s still one policy area where old habits die harder than Bruce Willis, as the NDP (which, along with the Bloc, has already vowed to vote down the budget) points out in a press release (h/t The Regina Mom):

The budget…contains no mention of childcare spaces and maintains the attack on women’s ability to pursue pay equity complaints.

Via Antonia Zerbisias, YWCA Canada has also issued a press release with its response to the latest bird-flip to 51% of the population:

“The government has set up some very inclusive spending with this budget for First Nations, seniors and people with disabilities, but we don’t see an awareness that Canadian women are very vulnerable in hard times,” says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. “Two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage are women, many taking any work they can find to hold family and community together.  Government stimulus spending must take this into account.”

[…]

The hole in this budget is child care services. For Canadian women and their families, child care is missing, and it is vital,” says Senior. “Everything we know about building strong families says child care services are essential. And that goes double for women needing to leave violent situations. They need affordable, quality care for their children so they can go out and work. Childcare not only creates jobs but it supports women and their families. Now is the time.”   The budget announced $200 million for social housing in the north, a much needed investment.

Unlike the November economic update there was no mention of pay equity in the budget.  “We are very sorry to hear a resounding silence from the government on this issue,” says Paulette Senior. “Especially as job stimulus spending is concentrated in employment sectors heavily dominated by men. The government needs to rethink its position on this equality issue and take the advice of its own task force.”

Keep in mind that, according to CUPE National President Paul Moist, “[m]any of these measures have a shelf-life of only two years.”  Anyone who believes that we have witnessed the birth of a new era of post-partisan Conservative governance needs to stop downing so many goddamn Hope and Change cocktails and reset their GPS (hint: we’re still flying north of the US border, kids–even under NAFTA obligations, Obama’s transformative reach unfortunately stops at the customs desk).  Still, it’s all-too-telling that, even in the short term, demonstrative apathy (or, depending how you look at it, antipathy) towards the women of Canada is one principle that the Tories are entirely unwilling to sacrifice at the alter of (temporary) expediency.

And, if anyone really thinks that we’re going to see this budget get killed, as Mark Taylor recommends, or even substantively modified before passage,  Brodie Fenlon of the Globe and Mail puts things into perspective with the following lede:

The fate of the Harper Conservative’s massive stimulus plan and its minority government now rests in the hands of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, as does the future of the fledgling Liberal-NDP coalition.”

In other words, progressives and coalition supporters shouldn’t even bother inhaling, much less holding it in.  Still, if the spirit of futile optimism moves you to act despite the long odds (as, um, it always does to yours truly), contact info for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is as follows:

Ottawa Parliamentary Office

Room 435-S, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Tel: (613) 995 – 9364
Fax: (613) 992 – 5880
Email: Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

Alternatively,  folks who are more new media saavy can send their thoughts via Iggy’s 1337 Web 2.0 hub.

Related: Various reponses from First Nation leader Phil Fontaine, James Laxer, and Marc Lee of the Progressive Economics Forum, who dismisses the “leakiest budget in Canadian history” as “more of a communications strategy than a serious budget for tough times.”

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