Friday, December 12, 2008

Sen. Corker - Very Effective and Very Dangerous: My Way or the Highway

1. Corker will run for President.

2. He has proven himself to be incredibly effective as a politician, both in getting what he wants and in putting a positive spin on it. If only Reid had half his skill, the Democratic minority, and majority, might actually have accomplished something these past years. But Conservative commitment to their goals remains much stronger than Democratic commitments to their values. And Ron Gettelfinger is vastly outgunned and out maneuvered by Corker and, quite frankly, does not know how to sell his case. (He continually talks in generalities rather than in the specifics that would strengthen his case).

3. What makes him effective? He clothes his ideological rigidity in a combination of southern charm and seeming reasonableness.

4. What did Corker do that was so effective? First, he put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the UAW by insisting that only 3 words stood between success and failure. And to him, of course, those 3 words were reasonable. He also lied in his news conference, something easy to do because our media don't bother to watch C-SPAN. In the interview I saw on C-SPAN, he insisted that "any date certain" would have been fine. On the floor, he insisted on a date in 2009. In the caucus, apparently, he had insisted on Mar. 31, 2009. And it was "parity" not "competitive" that I heard on the floor. It didn't occur to any of his interviewers to suggest that if it was "only 3 words", he could have ceded. After all, that's what bargaining is: give and take. There were, to him, three key provisions. The UAW accepted the others. But 2 out of 3 wasn't good enough. So Corker essentially told the UAW that "it's my way or the highway", and he sold it in such a way that nobody realized that he, not the UAW, was even more guilty of refusing to bend.

Corker and his fellow Southern Senators made clear during the hearings, which I also watched on C-SPAN ( again, something that nobody at CNN or MSNBC or NBC apparently ever thinks to do)), that they opposed bailouts in general and this one in particular. Corker was forceful in his opinion that Chrysler was just waiting to be bought (rather obviously true) and that GM was doomed to fail. Give him credit for being one of the few Senators/Reps. in the hearings who realized that Ford did not need a loan but simply a line of credit and, then, only in case the recession was even worse than anticipated or one of the other companies failed.

I suspect that those "3 words" were added specifically so the Republicans could torpedo the legislation and blame it on the UAW. And Corker has pretty much succeeded in both objectives. Which is why he is somebody that Democrats should both fear and emulate.

What else was Corker able to do? He was able to laugh at the idea of a "Car Czar" while at the same time taking upon himself the role of a "Car Czar" and a bankruptcy judge. Corker turned himself into judge and jury. He alone understands the reality and he alone knows the solutions. For a man who, at other times, argues strongly against Government micro-management of business (esp. when it comes to environmental matters), that is exactly what he did. And our useless media, of course, let him get away with it.

One last thing: he managed to hide the fact that his plan required GM and Chrysler to prove their viability in 3 months. Given the state of the economy, that is incredibly unrealistic. It was just another way to ensure that GM and Chrysler would fail - and the failure would be seen to be theirs alone, not something helped along the way by the Southern Republicans.

Monday, December 1, 2008

FDR Didn't End the Depression: WWII Did

Both liberal and conservative economists seem to agree that WWII ended the Depression. But conservative economists go further. They say that FDR's actions (esp. the WPA programs) were, at best, useless & a waste of money or, at worst, the reason the Depression lasted until WWII.

I see two problems with this. First: the value of the work programs. I'm sure there was some waste, fraud and abuse. But a lot of today's infrastructure, like Eisenhower's highway system in the 1950s, was built under FDR.

Second, they ignore the "why" in the "WWII ended the Depression". I am NOT an economist (I barely survived the basic Econ. courses in graduate school), but, from an economic point of view, what did WWII do?

Well, it took millions of young men our of the civilian labor force and put them to work for the government. Then the government spent a lot of money on all the manufactured goods needed to run the war. It was government money that paid for the planes and tanks and uniforms and food and weapons, etc. And who produced these goods? Well, with a lot of the men doing government work, a whole new class of workers, women, went into the work force. I don't know what the combined number of new military men and new women in the workforce was, but certainly the result was the largest government works program in U.S. history.

So, the Conservatives draw the wrong conclusion. Yes, WWII ended the Depression. But it was precisely because it created an even greater expansion of Federal spending in the private sector. FDR's programs didn't work the miracle because they simply were not big enough.

Bill as Senator?

One of the dumbest speculations, among the endless CDS speculations, is the current gossip about Bill's being appointed to fill out Hillary's term. Apparently, this would solve some political problems for the Governor of New York and keep Bill "out of trouble".

The precedent? Adams. Would he do it? They say "why not"?.

First, it's unlikely that two Presidents could be more different than Adams & Clinton. Second, I suspect that the Congress in Adams' time was a more interesting place to work than the Congress today.

Think about it (something none of the talking heads talking about this have done): Bill Clinton as a junior Senator, stuck on unimportant subcommittees where he will be given two minutes to ask a question?

And can one imagine Clinton in a Senate in which Reid is the Majority Leader? Bill, one of the best arm-twisters around?

It is ridiculous and illustrates nothing so much as the utter vacuousness that characterizes the media, even the "big" media, today.