13 October, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Pour whatever you've got handy into the nearest thing resembling a glass and raise 'em high to economist Paul Krugman, who just won himself the Nobel Prize in Economics:
This makes my day.

Paul Krugman has been a stalwart liberal during these dark Bush years, taking the kinds of slings and arrows that only someone who dared to speak the truth in an international forum like the NY Times would be subjected to. He was fearless and passionate and I'm not sure the blogosphere would have developed the way it did if it weren't for him. His column was the only major political venue for a time that validated what we were seeing. Now he is a blogger himself. (Indeed, I think he may be the first Nobel Prize winning blogger out there.)

Obviously, his work in economics is what brought him this prize and I've no doubt it is well deserved. But I'm sure his success there, as in everything he does, is due to his staunch intellectual integrity. In that, he is an inspiration in all fields of endeavor.

This is a well-deserved honor for Mr. Krugman, and a delightful thumb-in-the-eye to the lackwits who excoriated him for not jumping on the Bush bandwagon. And, could there be a bigger message in choosing him? Some think so. I do not disagree.

Salud, Paul! Bottoms up, my darlings. And pour another one for Obama, who's busy making sure we'll have a future:

There were reports this morning that Obama was scheduled to give a "major" speech on the economy, but there have been plenty of "major" speeches, and it's hard to know when and if an address will include new information.

As it turns out, today's "Rescue Plan for the Middle Class" speech, delivered in Toledo, Ohio, really was a "major" speech.

Video excerpts aren't yet available online, but I'd encourage folks to check out the transcript. It included a healthy dose of both rhetoric and policy specifics.

"Right now, we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action. We can't wait to help workers and families and communities who are struggling right now -- who don't know if their job or their retirement will be there tomorrow; who don't know if next week's paycheck will cover this month's bills. We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class and we need to do it now. Today I'm proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners. It's a plan that begins with one word that's on everyone's mind, and it's spelled J-O-B-S."

It was a rather lengthy policy proposal, but the speech emphasized a new jobs tax credit, eliminating all capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and start-up companies, fast tracked loan guarantees for the auto industry, infrastructure projects, an extension (and expansion) of unemployment benefits, reforming unfair bankruptcy laws, and a three-month moratorium on foreclosures. Obama also endorsed McCain's proposal on waiving rules that force seniors to withdraw from their 401(k)s even when the market is bad, and took it a step further, making it easier for all Americans to withdraw up to 15% from their IRA or 401(k) through the end of next year without penalty.

The notion that Obama doesn't back up his rhetoric with specifics certainly doesn't apply today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the man most qualified to be the next President of the United States. Huzzah! Now drink up - you'll need a good buzz on for this next bit.

Contrast Obama's substantive, intelligent speech chock full of specific policy proposals with McCain's recent activitiy on the economic front.

First, he's doubled-down on a disasterous spending freeze:

McCain has emphasized the notion of a spending freeze several times over the last couple of weeks, including in his latest "reboot" speech in Virginia this morning.

"I will freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care until we scrub every single government program and get rid of the ones that aren't working for the American people."

It really would be helpful if McCain fleshed this out a bit. Are defense, veterans care, Social Security, and health care the only parts of the budget that will be isolated from this "freeze"? As Mark Schmitt recently asked, "In a recession, are Food Stamps frozen? Student loans? Unemployment benefits? Pell Grants? S-CHIP? Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)? The list is long, and different states and constituencies naturally have their own programs that they would like to know whether McCain would freeze them or not."

Quite right. A spending freeze would have dramatic real-life consequences. As Yglesias recently noted, a spending freeze would, in real terms, mean "less money for your local police department. Less money for the FBI. Less money for Head Start. Less money for Pell Grants. Less money for infrastructure. Less money for everything except failed banks and endless wars."

That's bad enough. You don't save the economy from a deep depression by freezing government spending - you spend your way out of it. But McCain just can't stop with one idiotic idea. No, he's got to throw tax cuts in there. He said they're aimed at the middle class. If that's the case, he's got worse aim than Dick "Was that your face? I thought it was a bird" Cheney:

The Politico reported last night that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is planning to unveil “new economic plans” this week, “aimed directly at the middle class.”

Campaign officials said that “among the measures being considered are tax cuts – perhaps temporary – for capital gains and dividends.”

But if these are indeed the proposals that McCain makes, then he will, once again, have to explain why his economic plan is geared disproportionally towards the wealthy, as cutting capital gains and dividends taxes does nothing for the middle class.

As the Wonk Room has previously noted, most capital gains flow to millionaires. Families making more than $1 million collect 59% of capital gains, while families making less than $50,000 collect 2.5%.

Uh, whoops. So what happens when you aim, fire, and drill yourself through the foot? Why, tap-dance!

Despite a top surrogate's suggestion over the weekend that McCain would be unveiling new economic proposals, we learned this morning that in fact John McCain wasn't planning to announce anything of this kind. Instead, in a big speech today, McCain revealed that the new change to his campaign was that he'd more aggressively take the fight to Obama.

Now it turns out the whole plan all along was for McCain to offer new proposals. And he'll be offering them tomorrow.

That's what the McCain campaign just announced on a conference call with reporters moments ago, a few hours -- coincidentally, we're sure -- after Obama made headlines with proposals of his own.

The McCain campaign wants you to take them seriously. Try to keep a straight face, my darlings. I can hardly wait to see what earth-shattering proposals will come down from Mr. Erratic this time. I'll bet you a dollar the words "tax cuts" will be in there somewhere.

Mr. Erratic had better hope like hell that his running mate, Ms. Oblivious, doesn't open her mouth about the economy any time soon. She'll probably endorse Obama's plan. After all, she can't seem to keep the talking points straight on anything but "Obama's friends with a terrorist OMG!!1!11!" Here they are, tugging on opposite ends of the rope on North Korea:

Yesterday, the Bush administration announced that the United States was removing North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The decision was made after North Korea “agreed to resume disabling a plutonium plant and to allow some inspections to verify that it had halted its nuclear program.”

The administration’s move quickly split the McCain-Palin ticket. John McCain issued a preemptive statement on Friday expressing his displeasure with the agreement:

I have previously said that I would not support the easing of sanctions North Korea unless the United States is able to fully verify the nuclear declaration Pyongyang submitted on June 26. […] I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies before I will be able to support any decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

When asked about the deal on Saturday, McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin — trying desperately to demonstrate her own foreign policy competence — offered a contradictory response:

Condoleezza Rice, of course, having worked on this strategy for quite some time, I have faith in her that they’re making this wise decision and North Korea, of course, better live up to its end of the bargain there, in speaking with the other countries whom they’ve been working with, in promising the verification. That end of the bargain has got to be lived up to.

You know, the United States used to give the vice presidency to the runner-up in presidential elections. We stopped that nonsense when it became clear that having a veep who didn't share the prez's policies was an utter disaster. And yet, McCain's chosen a running mate he's diametrically opposed to in a variety of areas. Fascinating.

Maybe he mistook her cluelessness for malleability. The problem is, she's so clueless she can't be schooled. Anyone who continues to believe that a report that stated flat-out she committed ethics violations cleared her of ethics violations is not amenable to course corrections from Mr. Reality. Worse yet, she's infected his campaign staff with the Utterly Fucking Clueless virus:

On MSNBC this afternoon, host Andrea Mitchell asked McCain-Palin campaign spokeswoman Meg Stapleton: “Wasn’t [Palin] overstating it? She wasn’t cleared of anything unethical because the conclusion was that she had violated the ethics rules of the state of Alaska.” Stapleton responded, “This Governor did nothing wrong and did nothing unlawful.”
And yes, they were infected before, but Palin seems to have provoked the full onset of symptoms. I don't remember the McCain campaign being quite so moronic before she came on board.

If you know anyone who's still leaning McCain/Palin, you may want to give them a few gentle hints that putting a man in charge of your destiny who can't decide whether he's going to unveil a new economic policy in a time of economic crisis or not, and who's running mate has reading comprehension skills in the negative numbers, might not be the best idea. Not only this, but they're planning to put a woman in power who can't even tell the difference between political protests and requests to turn up the volume:

The McCain campaign's designated "attack dog" bit her own supporters today at a rally in Richmond. [link]

The outdoor crowd was so massive that many were unable to hear Palin speak, so about midway through the Alaska governor’s remarks, some of them tried to take matters into their own hands, shouting in unison, "We can’t hear you!"

When that didn’t get the candidate’s attention, they tried a new tactic.

"Louder!" they shouted.

Palin appeared flustered as she stopped reading from the prepared remarks, which were coming across her teleprompter.

"I would hope at least that those protesters have the courage and the honor of thanking our veterans for giving them the right to protest!" she admonished the confused crowd.

Palin’s husband Todd tried to put an end to the awkward episode by approaching his wife on stage and telling her, "They just can’t hear you back there. That’s it."

You know, I'd ask if the McCain/Palin ticket could get any more pathetic, but I'm honestly afraid the answer may be yes.


NP said...

Sláinte, Obama!

Cujo359 said...

In short, McCain is going to exempt 90 percent of the budget from scrutiny, then save us a bunch of money on the remaining ten percent. How's that going to work?

There really is a price for innumeracy. We're paying it.