Monday, September 29, 2008

I read the news today, O boy

So, in case you hadn't been following, it would appear that Wall Street and/or the government (because they are completely separate entities as it stands, of course: we're not SOCIALISTS or nuffin') got into a wee spot of trouble, which means we the people are also...implicated. The proposal to save us all went a little something like this:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

(thanks for the h/t, ravenmn)

And for the past few days, all signs have been pointing to, everyone hates the idea but we're gonna pass it because otherwise it's going to be even fucking worse. Going to have been. Whatever tense that is. Well...

"Is that the sound of tinkling ice and the warbling notes of Celine Dion in the distance?

In a vote that shook the government, Wall Street and markets around the world, the House on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, leaving both parties' lawmakers and the Bush administration scrambling to pick up the pieces. Dismayed investors sent the Dow Jones industrials plunging nearly 800 points, the most ever for a single day.

...All sides agreed the effort to bolster beleaguered financial markets, potentially the biggest government intervention since the Great Depression, could not be abandoned.

But in a remarkable display on Monday, a majority of House members slapped aside the best version their leaders and the administration had been able to come up with, bucking presidential speeches, pleading visits from Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and urgent warnings that the economy could nosedive without the legislation.

In the face of thousands of phone calls and e-mails fiercely opposing the measure, many lawmakers were not willing to take the political risk of voting for it just five weeks before the elections.

The bill went down, 228-205.

...The final stock carnage was 777 points, far surpassing the 684-point drop on the first trading day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

In the House, "no" votes came from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. More than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed the bill. Several Democrats in close election fights waited until the last moment, then went against the bill as it became clear the vast majority of Republicans were opposing it.

...A brutal round of partisan finger-pointing followed the vote.

Republicans blamed Pelosi's scathing speech near the close of the debate — which assailed Bush's economic policies and a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation" of financial markets — for the defeat. It was not much different from her usual tough words against the president and his party.

"We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," Boehner said.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

That amounted to an appalling accusation by Republicans against Republicans, said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the Financial Services Committee: "Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country."

More than a repudiation of Democrats, Frank said, Republicans' refusal to vote for the bailout was a rejection of their own president.

Well. Yeah. Lissen, whatever else we lose from here on out, I think we'll be mining rich lodes of irony and schadenfreude for the next while.

and then, well, I like this, I do:

McCain takes credit for bill before it loses

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his top aides took credit for building a winning bailout coalition – hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked.

Shortly before the vote, McCain had bragged about his involvement and mocked Sen. Barack Obama for staying on the sidelines.

“I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now,” McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “Sen. Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation.”

McCain, grinning, flashed a sarcastic thumbs up....

Meanwhile, we're all waiting with bated breath for this next round of debates. If nothing else, McCain/Palin win this, not just Tina Fey but a whole shitload of comedians should have fairly steady incomes. Do you know, she's still going, is Palin, with Couric? I mean, there's MOAR:

CBS News released an excerpt from tonight's interview between Sarah Palin and Katie Couric on the trail in Ohio.

Couric: Gov. Palin, since our last interview, you've gotten a lot of flak. Some Republicans have said you're not prepared; you're not ready for prime time. People have questioned your readiness since that interview. And I'm curious …

Palin: Yeah.

Couric: … to hear your reaction.

Palin: Well, not only am I ready but willing and able to serve as vice president with Sen. McCain if Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them, ready with my executive experience as a city mayor and manager, as a governor, as a commissioner, a regulator of oil and gas.

Oh, this is a new one; the last interview was the one with gems like this, on the bailout:

That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in
spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

She was right about one thing, though:

(thanks for the h/t, Donna)

btw, I find the contrast in framing interesting, based on the pull quotes from Obama and McCain's respective post-fail video clips: (see current front page of yahoo)

McCain: "It's time to fix the problem"

Obama: "GOP has a failed philosophy."

Meanwhile, meant to say for a few days, I like this piece by hilzoy at obsidian wings a lot.

First: throughout all this, I've been torn between believing in market discipline and wanting to avoid moral hazard on the one hand, and thinking that of course that commitment flies out the window if we're seriously threatened with economic collapse, on the other. But it's worth remembering that we could have avoided having to choose between these unfortunate options. All we needed to do was have people in government who believed in good regulation.

Second: if anyone ever tells me that Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline ever again, I will either dissolve in laughter or bite their heads off. I don't know which. You have been warned.

Third: in particular, if any Republican ever tells me that a hundred million or so is just too much to pay to make sure that kids have health insurance, I will definitely bite his or her head off.

Fourth: I do not want to hear people tell me that regulation cripples the economy, unless they are willing to admit that a lack of regulation can also cripple the economy. Not ever. I don't understand why anyone is so much as tempted to think that "regulation" is good or bad, as a whole: to me, that's like being for or against "things" or "people". Some regulations are good, some are bad; obviously, we want people in government who can tell the difference, and implement regulatory systems that work well. However, altogether too many of my fellow citizens were willing to listen to ideologues, and now we all get to pay for their mistakes.

Fifth: if Obama wins, he and the Democrats will, in all probability, have to be the grownups once again. Reagan spent us blind; Clinton got us out of debt again. Now Bush has spent us even blinder, and we will be tempted, yet again, to put our ideas and aspirations on hold for the sake of the country.

I would like to hear one Republican, just once, acknowledge this fact.

I should also say: as people go, I am pretty willing to step up and be a grownup, even when other people aren't. But I am just about at the end of my rope. What that means, in practical terms, is that while early in the 90s I was willing to put various plans on hold for the sake of the country and its fiscal stability, I now think: Democrats' willingness to be sane and fiscally responsible just enables the Republicans. I am not willing to play that game. So don't count on me to think that universal health insurance is something we just can't afford any more.

Republican fiscal conservatives: if you've lost me, you've lost a whole lot of people. Because this is not a way of thinking that comes naturally to me at all. So step up to the plate and reform your party. You can't count on us to do your dirty work.

ETA: Queen Emily's post at Questioning Transphobia is well good also:

What I think this demonstrates is the utter improbability of anything resembling a welfare program in the United States. Can you imagine a similarly budgeted universal health care bill getting through?

*pause for laughter*

Because some things are necessary–like Wall Street making obscene amounts of money (and trickling it down, no really–and others, like access to health care and education, are not.

...All of this ...shows the woeful inadequacy of neoliberalism for fixing problems of its own creation. Those who will receive the worst of it will, as always, be those who can least afford it–poor people, immigrants, people of colour. People without money and social capital, “suspect populations” for the army to aimed at (since a racist system constitutes PoC largely as guilty unless proven otherwise)… And given the hysteria aimed at “illegal immigrants” it’s hard not to imagine an imminent campaign targeting immigrants as the internal antagonism responsible for the current crisis.

The response of Wall Street to its own incipient demise–to demand unimaginable amounts of money–amounts to more of the same. The mentality that creates disasters then reaps the rewards of the aftermath cannot be trusted to fix itself, let alone to take care of the average American, and nothing short of a massive change of political co-ordinates (such as the sort that can imagine universal health care, that will put human rights ahead of corporate interests) can make a bail-out anything more than a short term fix for an ailing economy feeding off its own death.


Nick said...

It's a great irony that the "big spending liberal" president, Bill Clinton, created a budget surplus. And the "fiscal conservative" Bush has racked up the debt like it's nobody's business.

So much for accurate political labeling!

By the way, did you see my last comment about San Francisco?

Comrade Physioprof said...

I should also say: as people go, I am pretty willing to step up and be a grownup, even when other people aren't. But I am just about at the end of my rope. What that means, in practical terms, is that while early in the 90s I was willing to put various plans on hold for the sake of the country and its fiscal stability, I now think: Democrats' willingness to be sane and fiscally responsible just enables the Republicans. I am not willing to play that game. So don't count on me to think that universal health insurance is something we just can't afford any more.

The Democratic Party is the sober responsible spouse who continually cleans up after the out-of-control drunken asshole Republican Party spouse who crashes the car, fucks the babysitter, blows out all the credit cards, and then cries: "It wasn't my fault; you should have stopped me!"

belledame222 said...

yeah, at a certain point one asks whether this marriage can be saved. and at minimum stops enabling the abuse.

actually I've often thought this is part of why people get angrier at the Democrats than at the Republicans: it's similar to the dynamic where people get angrier at the "good" parent who sits by and does nothing. because they're supposed to know better, unlike the abuser, and also it's less scary to take out the anger on them, and also they seem weak.

Nick: email sent.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

And the drunken asshole spouse--at least until they completely destroy everything around them--is more fun to drink beer with.

belledame222 said...

mhm. also sounds more convincing when sie says that sie is actually the victimized/long-suffering one, and the spouse is the one making all the trouble. because sie -believes- it.