Month: January 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Right on WMD; fired.


GOP Leadership

The RNC found it’s own Obama! This is, after all, what conservatives do: co-opt because they cannot, cannot, cannot create.

1. Steele compared stem cell research to Nazi experiments during the Holocaust.

2. Steele bused in homeless African Americansfrom Philadelphia to distribute literature in inner-city Baltimore that featured a “Sample Democratic Ballot” with votes for Steele and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, along with photos of prominent black Democrats.

3. Steele once described that “R” next to his name as a “scarlet letter,” complaining that being a Republican was hurting his electoral chances.

4. Steele was endorsed by Mike Tyson during his run for Senate. When Tyson, who used to be married to Steele’s half sister, pleaded no contest to assault in Montgomery County in 1998, Steele was on hand to support him.

5. Steele defended former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s decision to hold a $100,000 fundraiser at a country club that did not allow non-white members, saying that the club’s membership’s policies were “not an issue” because “I don’t play golf.”


War Room has more:

* * He hasn’t displayed a ton of political acumen — he’s won elected office only once, and he didn’t head that ticket. He lost the aforementioned Senate race, and, before that, couldn’t even win a GOP primary for state comptroller; he placed third, in fact. His tenure as head of the Maryland party wasn’t brilliant, either, and he repeatedly had trouble recruiting candidates. (In his defense, it’s not easy to be a Republican in the state.) Along the way, he’s made some serious missteps: He got in trouble in 2006 for making some unguarded remarksdisparaging then-President Bush to a group of reporters. His name was supposed to be kept off the comments, but when it quickly became obvious who was responsible, Steele tried to lie his way out of the gaffe. Also in 2006, he attracted unwanted attention when, speaking before a Jewish group, hecompared stem cell research to medical tests that the Nazis conducted on prisoners during the Holocaust. The GOP better hope this victory is a sign that he’s learned some hard lessons –he already has a tough fight ahead of him in trying to win over the party’s conservative wing, which doesn’t fully trust himbecause of his membership in the more moderate Republican Leadership Council. 

And while Steele’s personal resume looks impressive from afar, it’s not nearly as pretty up close. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and then got a law degree from Georgetown University, true. That said, though, he initiallyflunked out of Hopkins, and while he did pass the bar in Pennsylvania, he failed it in Maryland. His record as a businessman wasn’t stellar, either. A consulting firm he founded never turned a profit, and was a serious drain on his finances. Shortly after he began his run for lieutenant governor, Steele ran into trouble because of a $25,000 loan his sister had given to his campaign for comptroller that he’d never paid back. Then, there were revelations of an additional $35,000 in personal debt, as well as more than $100,000 he’d taken out of two retirement accounts in order to support his family, leaving a balance of less than $600 at the time the news broke. He suffered further embarrassment over his finances when it was revealed that the Republican Party was paying him a consulting fee of $5,000 a month during his campaign for lieutenant governor.

FDR For Dummies

The big rap against FDR’s handling of the Depression is, well, he pretty much did nothing, actually, that it was WWII (and the post-war economic landscape) that did the trick and then brought a generation or two of prosperity.

Actually, he was doing fine til he listened to the pre-Keynesian conservatives and pretty much undid all he had accomplished:

There is a deep disagreement between the Democrats and the Republicans about what governments can and should do now. To understand this, we need to look at a seemingly esoteric debate between the parties about what happened in the last global depression. There are two contradictory stories about how the Great Depression ended. They provide dramatically different road maps for 2009 – so it’s essential to figure out which is right. The winning side will determine your chances of losing your job and your home.

The dominant story in the public mind is of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s success. It goes like this. Like Obama, FDR comes to power with the American economy haemorrhaging jobs. He believed that, if private industry is withering, the government has to take up the slack by large public spending programmes. He set millions to work preserving green spaces and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. He thought it was necessary to borrow and spend in the short term to prevent complete and more costly collapse later. Use government to counter the economic cycle, rather than leaving us all to drift out to sea on it.

This is Barack Obama’s story too, as they launch their own fiscal stimuli. His favoured analogy is of jump-starting a failing car, rather than let it whimper to a halt on the road.

But at the height of Reaganism, a small number of right-wing economists began to tell a different story about that time. They argued that the American people had been wrong: the New Deal actually made the Depression worse. By borrowing and spending so much, the government created a climate of uncertainty. This made investors hold on to their money – prolonging the despair. It didn’t restore private investment, it “crowded it out”. So in a depression, all government can do is cut back its own spending and wait for the business cycle to recover. The only effective way for government to hurry this along is a monetary stimulus: altering interest rates and the quantity of money in the economy in an attempt to increase demand.

This is increasingly the Republican view, promoted hard by conservative commentators like George Will. At the core of this case is a stark fact: unemployment was still at 13 per cent in 1937.

Which is true? The reality of FDR’s rule is more complex than either story admits – but the lessons vindicate one set of principles resoundingly.

It’s almost forgotten now, but FDR ran for election promising a balanced budget and big spending cuts. By the time he assumed the Presidency, however, public protests against the economic collapse were so huge that he was forced to change course and launch his public spending push. The result? Unemployment began to slide down from its 25 per cent peak.

But then, in 1936, FDR wobbled. He listened to the people making the fiscally conservative case and slashed spending. Unemployment rose again – producing the spike in unemployment that people like Osborne now perversely cite as evidence that the New Deal didn’t work. But the reality stands. When FDR spent, unemployment fell. When FDR cut back, unemployment rose.

Yet perhaps the clincher is the answer to a bigger question: how did the Great Depression end? It didn’t stop with the conservative suggestion: slashed spending, slashed debt and slashed government activity. It ended with precisely the opposite: the vast fiscal stimulus of the Second World War. The government sent debt soaring to its highest levels in US history (until today) in order to spend more than ever before. It set up the longest boom in US history.

This is our choice now. Obama will have to be pressured hard to make their stimuli much bigger, and to focus less on propping up old corporations and more on building a new low-carbon economy. He will make many mistakes. But, as FDR put it, “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference”.


Traitors or…?

Maybe there were no GOP votes in part because the plan is so weak (maybe due to pointless compromises with the GOP?) that it will essentially fail and the GOP, understandably wants to be able to say Ain’t our fault?

Or maybe they’re just, you know, scum….