Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Always Hillary's Fault

Surfing into Anderson 360 tonight, I discover that the reason Obama hasn't nominated a Treasury Secretary is that Hillary hasn't made up her mind. Apparently, The Chosen One, the reincarnation of Lincoln and FDR can't do two things at the same time.

And, of course, Obama's super secret, efficient, disciplined, loyal staff are angry because Hillary's people are responsible for all the leaks. I guess they're responsible for the leaks about the Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary and Commerce Secretary, too?

Now, let me see. Obama, President-Elect, CIC, Leader of the Free World, can't "handle" the Clintons. Because, you see, he can't ask her formally to take the position unless he knows she will say yes (um, so what exactly happened with Pritzker? Did he just sort of hint around, like, um, maybe, do you think, maybe, .... and when Pritzker shook her head "no", that was it?) But, he can still, of course, ask Bill to lay bare his entire financial history - just in case, of course, he decides to offer her the job.

I'm not sure who comes out the worst here. These idiotic talking heads or Obama. Couldn't he, like, you know, just issue a statement that he hasn't offered anybody any position in his cabinet and will issue a press statement when he does? No? Too easy?

Quite frankly, the longer this goes on, the more I wonder why Hillary would even want to be in this amateur's cabinet. It's a dead end job, as far as I can tell. She wouldn't be able to run for the Senate again, unless, of course, she moved to another state. Governor? Maybe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GM Bankruptcy - Chap. 11 vs. Chap. 7 - Media Malfeasance

I don't know why I still expect anybody in the national media to do their jobs. Maybe I had just decided that "politics" was different. That I shouldn't expect fair or responsible coverage. But they could still deal with facts in other cases.

Not so. The Detroit 3 are asking for money. The response from the media, and from much of the Congress, is that they should just file for bankruptcy. "Chapter 11 is the solution".

Now, I am not a bankruptcy expert, or even a semi-expert. Hell, I'm an aboslute novice. But there appears to be a major difference between Chapter 11 (reorganization) and Chapter 7 (liquidation)and it is not at all clear that GM could reorganize under Chapter 11. Some people have mentioned a "pre-packaged" Chapter 11 or the Government (!) ensuring warranties, but as far as I can tell none of the talking heads who throw "Chapter 11" around know any more about bankruptcy law than I do.

It seems to me that the consequences of liquidation vs. reorganization are significant, not only for the companies but for the country. Millions could lose their jobs, their health care and, quite possibly, their homes.

I will admit that the executives of the Detroit 3 didn't do their cases any good by their inability to answer simply some basic questions (like how much cash they needed each month) or to explain to the committee members who advocated Chapter 11 the difference between the two types of bankruptcies. But isn't there a business reporter somewhere in the media (print, internet or TV) who could spend a little time researching the issue?

Personally, I'd rather waste 29 million trying to keep those 3 million jobs than just throw the dice and assume that everything will work out. (A couple of CNBC's guest stars on The Big Deal really threw me with their cool assessment that the 3 million would get unemployment benefits!)

A lot of this talk about "let them fail", "let the market clear out all the riff-raff" isn't new. It was last heard en masse in 1929. I'd like to think we learned something, but it appears that Conservative Economists are convinced that the Government caused the Great Depression and want to do it "their" way this time. Oddly enough, only CNBC's Jim Cramer seems to understand that in the current economic situation, ideology is not a good counselor. As he points out: we can punish all these corporate idiots later. It's more than a bit masochistic to send the world into a Depression just to prove that capitalism penalizes failures.

The "Bait and Switch" Bait and Switch

Lately, Conservatives, Republicans, and even a few Democrats (Waters, Ackerman) who should know better have been screaming about Treasury's switch from buying troubled assets (TARP) to capital investment.

Now, it is true that Paulson's initial idea and plea for money was specifically to buy the toxic assets through some kind of auction. Luckily, Congress proved to be smarter. The much maligned 3-page law Paulson proposed, replaced by the equally maligned several hundred page law (loaded with all those goodies people hate) allowed for investment (which is was Europe had started to do).

So, although Paulson was all for TARP, the law specifically allowed him to use capital investment. What I found especially troubling is that some of the Representatives and Senators who are getting all hot and bothered about this "bait and switch" are on the very committees responsible for the legislation. They, supposedly, have heard both Dodd and Frank explain this situation, several times if they had not bothered to read the legislation.

One can only conclude that they are either remarkably stupid, totally disconnected from reality, or just trying to appease or stir up their constituents.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NMJY (Not My Job Jet)

Well, for the past couple of days CNBC has been opining that Obama, in his first press conference as Pres-Elect had to offer specific plans. And the political reporters have all been saying how important it is that he name at least his Treasury Secretary. They were pleased that he already had a Chief of Staff (as opposed to that awful Bill who didn't name one until January - just reporting, don't know if that date is accurate).

So, what did we get? More campaign fluff, with the ever-present "bi-partisanship", and the new "I am not yet President".

Ok, he's right. The Shrub is still President, the old Congress is still there. But this was also a get-out-of-jail play. And does anybody doubt that her not yet being sworn in would have kept Hillary from setting out her detailed plans? No. Oh, but hey, she's already done that in areas like housing, only I guess that doesn't count because it's not her job. Obama did, however, give us a hint of what his excuse will be if he doesn't get his plan through when he has a plan: partisanship.

Almost forgot: those fast appointments Obama was going to give us? Well, fast means "weeks". Weeks before he is President: about 10.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Conservative Chagrin and Chutzpah

During the past couple of weeks, I've been watching Fox and, in spite of my dislike for Obama, can't help but be alternately amazed and pleased by the Conservative response to his (forthcoming) election.

Conservative Chagrin
It has been nothing short of joyful, in a way, to see the constant complaining about "liberal media bias". Now, obviously, this is nothing new. Conservatives have been complaining about liberal bias for at least 30-40 years. But, this time, of course, they are right. The media has been, since Feb., almost solidly for Obama. And one can see in their faces and hear in their voices their amazement that, this year, their complaints are not being heard and not being acted upon. The media have failed to latch onto any of the time-proven attacks on a Democratic Presidential candidate - even when, as is true re Obama - many of the attacks are truthful in whole or in part. These Conservatives, quite simply, are baffled by this change. It isn't the way things are supposed to be.

This year, Conservatives like Kristal, Krauthammer, Barnes, Limbaugh, etc. have outdone themselves and given a whole new meaning to the word "chutzpah".

First, of course, there is the utter dismay that "tax and spend liberals" will be in charge of the public purse. Horror of horrors, they fear for the national debt. Naturally, not a word about the "borrow and spend Republicans". Not a word about a Republican President and Congress that entered into a war of choice and not only did not raise taxes to support it but actually reduced taxes - something, I think, that has never occurred before.

Second: all the hand wringing about one party controlling Congress. Need one point out that there were no such concerns about the Republican Party controlling all the branches of government?

Third, Russ Limbaugh blamed the current economic crisis on Jimmy Carter! Like Reagan never happened. Like Bush 1 & 2 never happened. Our financial problems are all due to the Democrats.

Fourth, deficits matter! Yep, now that the Democrats are in control, it is important for them to recognize that they can't just spend money because of the deficit. For the past 8 years, after the Shrub turned Clinton's surplus into the biggest deficit in history, they have told us the deficit doesn't matter because it is still just a small part of the GNP.

Fifth, most recently, there was talk that, even if Obama won by a large majority, the Democrats should not assume that they have a mandate! Election night, Barnes was practically apoplectic about a liberal agenda. And he believes it is the Democrats who have shown no inclination to compromise! No inclination to compromise? That's all the Democrats have done for the past two decades. Which party was it that threatened the "nuclear" option in the Senate (a change in rules)? Oh, yea, it was the Republicans.

Good grief. Bush, in 2000, having won the Presidency only because of a Republican Supreme Court, started governing as if he had had a Reagan-type landslide. And I didn't hear a peep from any Conservative that, maybe, it was unwise or unjustifiable. One wonders if, once Obama is safely in office, the media will go back to their Republican souls and repeat this advice and concern that Democrats must be careful not to overreach themselves. (Update: Yep, it's already happening and Obama hasn't been President-elect for even 24 hours.)

Krauthammer, however, wins the prize for schizophrenia (i.e., a total disconnect from reality). This four-star misogynist asserted a couple weeks back on Fox that feminists hate Palin because she chose not to abort a fifth pregnancy when she learned the child would have Down's Syndrome. According to Krauthammer, her situation was the poster campaign for abortion, the reason (he made it sound like the "only" reason) feminists support abortion. Worse, he actually seems to believe the crap that he is spouting.

That these gray or bald heads (and the age of this cohort is quite noticeable) would pull out the old "tax and spend liberals" or rail against Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches is no surprise of course. That one-party rule isn't good for the country, that the American People prefer divided government, that the Party in control cannot assume it has a mandate are all familiar, and silly, refrains. Did any of these Conservatives worry about one-party control when the party in question was Republican? Of course not.

What offends me, however, is not their opinions. It is their pretense that all their concerns about the deficit, governing from the left rather than the center, one-party control of Washington, etc., etc. are based on principle.

And that, my friends, is the political definition of chutzpah.