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.”

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Advertisements

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

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

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!)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

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.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Joe Biden: Republican Silence on Economy is “Deafening” (Literally!)

by matttbastard

h/t Jed and Kyle Moore (via IM) for the vid

Heckuva job: The NY Times reports that the US unemployment rate hit a 5 year high this week, and is now on par with Canada’s for the first time since 1982 (ppsh, that’s nice — hey, check out McCain’s prime time numbers!):

The August jobs report seemed to suggest that the deterioration in the economy is accelerating. The unemployment rate has risen 1.4 percentage points over the last year and is now at its highest level since September 2003, when the economy was just beginning to emerge from a jobless recovery.

What’s more, those who swelled the unemployment rolls last month were adults, many over the age of 45, and not teen-agers, who were the main contributors to the jump in unemployment in May, when the rate rose to 5.5 percent from 5 percent in April. The nearly 600,000 people added to the unemployment roles in August included almost as many college graduates as those with only a high school degree.

Manufacturing companies shed the most jobs last month, 61,000, mostly at auto plants and in housing-related industries. There were also sharp cutbacks in the use of temporary workers, and across most of the work force hourly and weekly wages once again failed to keep pace with inflation.

The McCain campaign’s thoughtful strategic response to this latest economic body blow?

Piss on the legs of the working and middle classes and call it rain:

Hoping for a poll bounce out of the Republican convention at St Paul, Mr McCain, accompanied by Governor Sarah Palin, his vice-presidential running mate, hit the campaign trail in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, with a populist message.

“John McCain doesn’t run with the Washington herd,” Mrs Palin said, introducing the Republican nominee.

Mr McCain declared: “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over for the special interests. We’re going to start working for the people of this country.

He mentioned the jobless figures and said that these were “tough times” for Americans and promised to “stand on your side and fight for you”, cutting government spending and opening up new markets abroad. He vowed to “shake up Washington and get things done for you”.

The McCain campaign has dubbed their new tour, through many economically deprived areas, as the “Change is Coming” tour.

Yep, nothing boosts voter confidence and stirs the soul quite like hollow rhetoric (“Shake up Washington!” “We’re going to start working for the people of this country!”) from shameless political shills cynically and contemptuously treating the whining electorate like dolts unable to read between the lines of their monthly credit card statements.

“Change is coming”?

My angry black ass.

Charles Krauthammer (!) nails it:

The Republican brand is deeply tarnished. The opposition is running on “change” in a change election. So McCain gambled that he could steal the change issue for himself — a crazy brave, characteristically reckless, inconceivably difficult maneuver — by picking an authentically independent, tough-minded reformer. With Palin, he doubles down on change.

The problem is the inherent oddity of the incumbent party running on change. Here were Republicans — the party that controlled the White House for eight years and both houses of Congress for five — wildly cheering the promise to take on Washington. I don’t mean to be impolite, but who’s controlled Washington this decade?

Gee, damn good thing this election isn’t about the issues (nor, apparently, accountability).

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers