Saturday, February 07, 2009

Never underestimate the power of a woman.

U.S. Capitol buildingThe U.S. economy continues to reverberate from the policies (or perhaps lack of policies) that the Bush-Cheney administration championed since taking office 8 years ago, and by most accounts we've now lost over 3.5 million jobs during the recession that they bestowed upon the tax-payers and future tax-payers. 600,000 Americans have been laid off in January alone. The mortgage foreclosures continue unabated, the unemployment rate is soaring, yet now that Bush is out of office certain members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives continue to support the trickle-down theories that brought us to this economic precipice. But it's not their fault.

The bloc that blocked

I don't mean the state of the economy - that's the fault of everybody who ever championed, or simply ignored, deregulation of the banking and financial industries. No, it's not their fault that they're engaged in partisan posturing at a time when the country has delivered a broad mandate for new approaches, because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tricked them. The Speaker got the minority to circle their wagons, to vote as a block against the first version of the new Stimulus bill even though they had been supportive of Bush's hurried spending bills to bail out banks as the previous administration was winding down, and now the Republican Senators are largely following suit.

Pelosi ran a bill through quickly for a vote, and now they're posturing desperately while the tax payers and voters watch more closely than the politicos are accustomed to - they're being downright obstructionist, and that leaves the Democrats in a stronger position.

Some strategists might suggest that at such a juncture the wise thing would be to give the newly elected President what he asks for, hoping that by the time the mid-term election rolls around they'd have something to point their fingers at if it fails while saying, "we did what he asked." But the voters are seeing the Republicans suggest we try "cutting taxes" again. Cutting taxes sounds pretty good to the people we've bailed out on Wall Street, I suppose, but when you're worried about losing your job and keeping food on the table your concern is not for the Capital Gains tax which is already considerably lower than the Income Tax, your concern is over staunching the flow of jobs before unemployment spirals to the levels of the Great Depression. President Obama's right to insist on timely action, the same sort of need the prior administration finally woke up to in the waning lame-duck days of their power.

Theatrics are alive and well in the U.S. Senate

Theatrics are alive and well in the Senate.What are the Republicans opposed to? Not so much, it turns out: something under 1% of the spending, yet rather than come with proposals for the voters to contemplate their doing what worked in the past, made-for-Fox drama and histrionics, name calling. While the President is visibly reaching out to find common ground, some of the most influential Republicans in the capitol are playing for sound-bites of their outrage and opposition, " have to start from scratch" - they failed to realize that Nancy Pelosi invited them back into their old, discredited "we-they" postures for the national audience, and failed to understand the urgency and pain of their constituents as the layoffs and foreclosures continue.

The reality is the situation is urgent; we can't allow the economy of the nation to falter and stall, we can't afford it. The decisions have to be made and plans launched by people who can't remotely follow the calculus that economists such as Paul Krugman or Mark Anson employ. Americans want to get back to work - and we want our elected leaders to do their work swiftly so we can stop laying off teachers and assembly line workers and losing their productive participation in our economy.

Maybe if we enforced layoffs, or even pay cuts, in Congress in proportion to the rest of the country, or the budget, they'd get off their rhetoric and get the bill passed.

Economic Recovery Compromise Makes Rich, Richer: The Alternative Minimum Tax

The President's Economic Recovery Act plan, called the Economic Stimulus and much needed, is headed toward passage but only because of a compromise that essentially makes the rich, richer. It's also a good reason why I believe we need to have a program that gives at least $3,500 to each American under $100,000, rather than just tax credits.

Reportedly, $100 billion was shaved off the plan, but according to the blogger LithiumCola at The DailyKos, the big reason why the plan was cut, and why the Senate plan was about $80 billion more expensive than the House plan, was the installation of a provision adjustment in what's called The Alternative Minimum Tax, such that the AMT increases incomes for those making more money, whereas it has little if any impact on those making less, specifically:

Haley points to a study at the Tax Policy Institute which shows that slashing the AMT increases the incomes of Americans in the top quintile by 1.3%, Americans in the next-highest quintile by .7%, the middle quintile by .1%, and does nothing at all for Americans in the bottom 40% of incomes.

To put that another way, Americans in the middle 20% of incomes will get on average a whopping $52 because of Senator Grassley's demand, those in the second-highest 1/5th will get $502, while Americans in the top 1/5th of incomes will get an average $2,593 -- and that last one includes those in the top 5%, who will get an average of $4,511. This is what the WSJ calls "shielding millions of middle-income Americans from the so-called alternative minimum tax."

It's for this reason I continue to push for a targeted stimulus of $3,500 for every American under $100,000 in income, or an planned allocation capped at 100 million people. The total cost would be $350 billion, and worth every penny.

According to the Federal Reserve Board 2004 survey of consumer finances, the average balance for those carrying credit card balances was $2,200, but many American families do not carry a credit card balance, so the fear that this $3,500 would be used only to retire credit card debt is unfounded. Indeed, there's more evidence to support the observation that the money would be used -- especially by those in the lower income categories -- just to keep a roof over their heads.

US Sherriff's don't want people evicted as record home foreclosure rates are expected. This proposal, combined with relaxed mortgage rates and anticipated refinancing plans, could help to keep Americans in their homes for at least an additional two years. That buys enough time for the other job-producing aspects of the Economic Stimulus plan to take effect.

In closing, given the trillions of dollars sent directly to corporations, $350 billion to the Americans who need it the most is not too much to ask for.


President Obama addresses Economic Recovery House Meetings

I got this from David Plouffe of Obama for America:

"President Barack Obama talks directly to the American people about the immediate need for action on the economy. Join your friends and neighbors at an Economic Recovery House Meeting in your community:

Actor Christian Bale Apologizes for F-Bomb Tirade

Christian Bale called in to the Kevin and Bean show on KROQ-FM (106.7) in Los Angeles to say he was sorry for the tantrum on the set of "Terminator Salvation" that was recorded and has been pinging across the Internet for days.

Michael Phelps Smokes Bong: American Hypocrisy 

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Phelps last fall at the Bank of The West Classic tennis event. I said then that he was "a cool guy" or words to that effect. The matter of his "bong" event is a study in American Hypocrisy.

Michael Phelps Smokes Bong: American Hypocrisy 

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Phelps last fall at the Bank of The West Classic tennis event. I said then that he was "a cool guy" or words to that effect. The matter of his "bong" event is a study in American Hypocrisy.