Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving etc.

My best wishes for the holidays to all blog readers.

BTW: Please forward the URL of this blog to anyone you think would enjoy reading it. Readership has been pretty much stagnant for a year now...

Please appreciate Tom Delay's discomfort while it lasts: it's something we can all be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

Good news for Thanksgiving: Tom DeLay was found guilty of money laundering. The case seemed clear: DeLay and his associates collected $190,000 from corporations to contribute to Republican candidates throughout Texas. However, Texas law limits the amount of p0litical contributions corporations can give. So DeLay and his pals shipped the money off to the national Republican party, and received, in return, a check for $190,000 (coincidence!) that supposedly came from individuals, not corporations. This is classical money laundering. DeLay and his lawyers claimed that since the original $190,000 was collected legally (corporations are allowed to give money, so each each corporation gave its share legally), he was not guilty. Apparently the jury didn't buy this; they realized -- as would any reasonable person -- that DeLay and cronies (and probably the corporation honchos as well) knew exactly what was going to happen to the money.

Any way, all's well that ends well. DeLay is one of the more unsavory people around -- right up there with the vile Newt Gingrich. Let's hope some Republican appeals court judge doesn't let him escape prison time.

Also, for good holiday reading, you might want to check out, online, the article "What Good is Wall Street" from the latest New Yorker. Talk about parasites (as I did in a recent blog): these people are worse than bedbugs.

In their desire to protect the Wall Street greed-mongers, the Republicans once again show why they have won so many "What part of beneath contempt don't you understand?" awards.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rolling Stone article on bank foreclosures

A.B. sent me the following article by Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone magazine:

Courts Helping Banks Screw over Homeowners.

The investment banking industry is quite rotten to the core. More of it will hit the fan before too long, since not every state is willing to sell its residents down the river the way Florida is.

A supporting opinion on financial parasitism

To echo yesterday's blog, here's an article entitled: "Can Wall Street Justify Its Existence?"

It's a hopeful sign that this issue is being discussed more openly each day. Not by the the PTR (Party for The Rich, formerly the GOP) of course.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Parasite Tax

When I learned about economics in high school, we were told how the stock market works and why it is good. Inventors and entrepreneurs who had good ideas about new and useful products could form companies and issue stock. Investors who thought these ideas or products were promising could take a risk and invest in the stock, thus becoming part "owners" of the company. The money they paid would be used by the company to grow and develop its products. If all went well, the company would thrive and the investors would be rewarded for the risk they took. Sounds wonderful. Like so much of capitalist theory.

But that's not quite the way it works, especially these days. There are still people who buy stocks based on the "fundamentals" of the companies: the management, ideas, and products. These are the true investors. However, most of the trading of securities these days is based on speculation. This is not speculation about the fundamentals of the company, but speculation about how the market and other investors will behave. Probably most stocks (and bonds) are not kept for months and years, but are traded monthly, weekly, daily, and even by the minute and second (see the insider newsletter Zero Hedge for some estimates). Sophisticated computer programs can use statistics and mathematical modeling to estimate small-scale fluctuations in segments of the market and relate that to the second-by-second behavior of particular stocks. Lightning fast buying and selling programs can trade thousands of stocks a second based on these analyses. All this computer power is available to trading companies and their best and wealthiest customers. Often a trading company (Goldman Sachs is a notorious example: see this blog) will pit their best customers against their less-favored customers.

There are tens of thousands of individual "day-traders" who do similar things on their own or are the favored customers of the big brokerage houses.

Make no mistake about it:

These People And Brokers Are Social Parasites.
They serve no useful purpose and do what they do solely out of greed. They are responsible for a lot of the volatility of the market. The tiniest bit of news or financial gossip can set off flurries or cascades of day-trading and computer sales that account for big fluctuations in the daily indices. No wealth or products or innovation or anything of social value is produced. The stock market is already very liquid (i.e. it's easy to pair buyers and sellers), so what these parasites do is create "churning" or "hyperliquidity": meaningless buying and selling that enriches only speculators. Responsible investors such as pension funds, hospitals and schools end up, more often than not, as victims of these irrational market swings.

Now add in derivatives: side bets on the performance of bundles of stocks and bonds; even bets on the financial indices themselves. Sometimes these bundles are only theoretical, as is the case of synthetic CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations) which may not actually contain anything more than a list of securities that one bets on. Or consider the trading of Credit Default Swaps, which are like "insurance policies" on securities. The whole setup has absolutely nothing to do with the fundamentals of capitalism, and everything to do with wild speculation and gambling.

It is universally acknowledged now that this gambling culture on Wall Street is responsible for the recent economic collapse and resulting unemployment. Unlike other ruined gamblers, however, the big players here -- investment banks (Citi e.g.) and insurance companies (AIG e.g.) were bailed out because their excesses threatened our entire economic system. Not only are many of the villains in this debacle now taking home huge annual bonuses -- often more than the average family's life savings -- but the Republicans and the woefully ignorant Tea Screamers think that we need fewer regulations of Wall Street.

(Gambling behavior by banks was forbidden after the Great Depression by the Glass-Steagall Act. This worked to prevent a major market crash for more than 60 years. It was repealed by a Republican Congress helped by then President Bill Clinton. For more, see my blog about it.)

The time has come to make Wall Street start paying. One effective way to do this is to enact recently proposed legislation to tax stock and bond sales. This has just been done in Europe and, in fact, there was such a tax in the U.S. from 1914 to 1966.

Yes, Virginia, it's true that we all pay sales taxes on purchases, except the gunslingers on Wall Street.

They can trade a hundred million shares in a day and not pay a dime in sales tax, while you and I fork over 5% or 6% or even more on back-to-school supplies and lawnmowers.

The idea of a Speculation Tax is simple and fair and necessary. Each time a stock is traded, the buyer and seller each pay a small tax -- about 1/4% in some plans. This is a tiny amount: $25 on $10,000 worth of stock, or about what you'd pay in sales tax on a $500 stove. It is absolutely no burden whatever on a long-term investor or conservative pension fund, or hospital or university. It does amount to a burden -- and rightfully so -- on people who make massive and frequent computer trades to take advantage of tiny point fluctuations in securities. It could also be called a Parasite Tax. Conservative estimates say it would bring in at least $100 billion a year in tax revenue (e.g. see Robert Kuttner's article). This revenue could be used constructively to undo some of the bad things that Wall Street has done to us.

Here is a fairly extensive article on the Parasite Tax (a.k.a. the Financial Transactions Tax or Tobin Tax) from SourceWatch and some other articles from the AFL-CIO and The Hill. Google it yourself to find out more.

Another important thing we can do is to make stock and bond traders' profits subject to regular income tax, not just the capital gains tax. But that will be the subject of another blog.

The important thing is: Make Wall Street Pay.

Write your rep about it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How I would "fix" the budget deficit

I haven't heard from anyone yet about their plans, but here is what I would do, following (mostly) the NY Times choices mentioned previously.

1. Domestic programs and foreign aid.

I would leave foreign aid largely in place, though I am sure that some of it is too heavily tilted toward the military. The US gives far less than its share, in terms of the size of our economy, to programs that really aid people and not police forces.

I certainly would not cut budgets for national parks and aid to states. These are programs which actually benefit the non-rich: people who don't have vacation homes or villas or yachts. The current pre-occupation with so-called "earmarks" is simply neurotic. Most earmarks are programs and financial support for highly worthwhile projects such as libraries and museums, as well as construction projects which can help put people to work at a time of high unemployment. In any case, the amount of money to be saved by axing all earmarks is too small to be significant.

Reduction of the Federal workforce is another "stalking horse" for Republican plans to make government ineffective and prevent regulation of industry. As usual in these things, the employees who are most likely to be cut are people like meat plant inspectors and employees of the EPA. The brothers-in-law of political hacks are probably the last to be canned. Let's not be fooled by this. Contrary to the right-wing propaganda, the Federal government is far more efficient that almost any large corporation like Citibank or General Motors, or Halliburton/Brown&Root.

There are two things I would cut in this category: farm subsidies and government contractors. As even the International Business Times points out almost all of this subsidy goes to huge agribusiness concerns, not to family farms. These companies simply do not need the subsidies, since they are quite profitable, busily using vast amounts of petrochemicals and energy to produce excesses of fattening and otherwise unhealthy products (e.g. high-fructose corn syrup). Presumably this would also eliminate any kind of subsidy for the production of ethanol, a worse than useless boondogle if there ever was one.

As far as government contractors go, the system is so unbelievably corrupt that it would be wise to start over by eliminating it completely. There is no evidence that privatization saves any money. It might if there was universally and tightly controlled competitive bidding, but this is hardly the case (see this study, for example). I don't personally believe that eliminating all these contractors will save the huge amount of money that the Times claims, since the products and services will have to be provided in other ways in most cases. But the current system is very much subject to the "revolving door" syndrome, where people shuffle back and forth between government agencies and private enterprise. (If you have access to the Washington Spectator, the Nov. 15 issue has an article documenting several egregious cases of this in the military sphere. We all know about $600 toilet seats of course.)

2. The military

I chose to make every one of the cuts offered by the Times. The military budget has become obscenely large yet curiously ineffective. We are buying planes, tanks and boats to meet non-existent threats. In fact, some of the programs the Pentagon doesn't even want. The reason these programs are financed is that they bring money to the districts and states of our reps in Washington. Now I'm not against employing people, but military spending is an inefficient way to go about doing it: see this article from Zero Hedge. This is not a new observation. Also, the "Star Wars" anti-missile program is another project that is immensely expensive, guards against a no more non-existent enemy, and is considered by most scientists to be nearly impossible to perfect. (Dr. Theodore Postol has published a lot of damning evidence to show these programs are frauds; here is one.)

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are losers and must be ended ASAP. People who voted for Obama and the Democrats a few years ago expressed the majority view then, and it is still the majority view. The more we use the military to fight terrorism, the more it costs us. The same was true for "insurgency" in the last round of wars in Indo-China. We can expect very little truth to come out of the government concerning how these wars are progressing, so it is wise not to fight them. Ending the permanent state of war will save lives and money, and may even make us more secure. Much can be said about this, but I will resist now.

3. Health care.

Most of the industrialized world spends far less on health care than we do, and achieves better results. Obama's recently enacted plan is barely a beginning. We should have had single-payer, but what was passed is still is a good step. We need to train more family doctors and we need to have a rational policy emphasizing preventative care and rational cost-containment. We still have healthcare rationing by income or good fortune. We need "Medicare for all." What we don't need is healthcare according to the medical and insurance lobby, which is what the Republicans want. Increasing the Medicare age to 70 is simply an attack on the non-rich and elderly -- it's just the opposite of what must be done. I don't think that simply capping Medicare growth to a percentage point above GDP growth can solve the problem unless there is a clear way of implementing this cap without simply denying people the medical care they need. The doctors lobby (which actually favors Obama's plan) is too powerful to fight on salaries, while Big Pharma also will effectively resist caps on their huge profits. Thus, a cap simply means more and more of the healthcare rationing we have right now.

We have to face the reality that providing for the "common good" includes providing healthcare for everyone, and this will necessitate sharing of the expenses. This will mean shifting some of the burden to those who can most afford it: people with large disposable incomes. We have to increase the Medicare and Social security tax base and make the taxes that finance it more progressive.

4. Social Security.

This is really easy to fix: tax all income. I repeat, ALL INCOME. At the moment all we tax is earned income up to about $106,000. The current rate is 12.4%, split between employer and employee, plus another few points for Medicare. We can keep these rates, but should apply them to all income, including stocks, bonds, dividends, capital gains etc. etc. This will solve the Social Security problem, without any need for means testing or raising the retirement age. In fact, Social Security already has some means testing, since retirement income becomes taxable at certain rates for higher income retirees. Eliminating the income cap on taxation will also add to this form of means testing.

5. Estate taxes.

The Founding Fathers were very clear on the need for preventing massive hereditary wealth. (See this article in The Economist.) We should have steep estate taxes, while providing a reasonable initial exemption of several million dollars. If you want to make multi-millionaires of your children, do it while you are alive. There is a lot of nonsense about family farms and small businesses, but this is baloney statistically. Almost no privately-owned "family" farms and small family businesses are worth more than a few million dollars (few are worth even that) so there really is no problem. Let's be clear about this: the people who are bent out of shape by the inheritence tax are rich people who want to pass on vast inherited wealth to those who didn't earn it.

6. Capital gains and dividend taxes.

Beginning in 2011, capital gains taxes will rise 5% (to 20% on higher income taxpayers), and dividends will be taxed at whatever the marginal (highest) tax rate is for the taxpayer. I favor keeping these higher rates. No one should pay lower taxes on some incomes -- especially "unearned" income such as stock speculation and investment dividends. This is an insult to working people whose incomes derive from salaries. To add to the Times' choices, we should tax stock and bond traders' incomes as regular income, not as capital gains as is now the (disgraceful) case.

7. Other income taxes.

I favor letting the Bush tax cuts, which primarily favor the wealthy, expire; actually, I favor allowing the tax cuts for personal income above say $250,000 to expire. I'd even let that go up a bit to say $500,000. People making this kind of money made out very well during the Bush years, but enough of that. Percentages are a bad way of evaluating incomes in any case, since it is the disposable income that really matters: the amount a person makes above the reasonable costs of living. I also favor imposition of some sort of surtax on incomes over 1 or 2 million dollars. Why? Because I believe in transfer of wealth (oh horrors) from the very wealthy to the much less well off. At one time the story of Robin Hood made him a widely admired fictional character; since Reagan and the Wall-Street disco years of "greed is good" we have lost a lot of that sense of fairness. I personally believe that the vast majority of people who make over $500,000 a year are overpaid (unless their profession is very dangerous), and those who earn less than $40,000 are probably underpaid.

For reasons explained above, I also favor collecting Social Security (and Medicare) taxes on all incomes, with no upper limit.

8. Tax "reform"

I don't think the corporate tax is really an issue, since it gets passed on eventually. Ending the deduction for home mortgages for second and vacation homes is a good idea, as well as some sort of limit on the deduction for very expensive mortgages. The problem here is geographic. If you live on one of the coasts, especially in the San Francisco-LA or Boston-Atlanta areas, even modest homes are very expensive. Any upper cap on mortgages should take the mean -- not the median -- home price in the area into account.

9. Other new taxes.

For many reasons I favor a carbon tax -- with tradeable carbon "credits". I also favor taxing banks that engage in risky speculation. Actually, I favor a new Glass-Steagall act to prevent banks from taking these risks in the first place. Glass-Steagall prevented bank meltdowns for all the years it was in effect; it was repealed with Clinton's blessing, and look at the mess we're in now.

The Times didn't allow me to opt for another tax which I consider a very fine and fitting idea, and which will bring in lots of revenue. It's the "Make Wall Street Pay" tax on stock and bond transactions: 1/4% on each side of every sale (buyer pays 1/4%, seller pays 1/4%). I will discuss this in a later blog. Real investors will hardly notice it, but day traders and other speculators will have to pay for churning the market.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You fix the budget!

The NY Times offers an interactive questionnaire enabling you to eliminate the budget deficit by selecting a series of tax increases and spending decreases. It's simple-minded, true, but nevertheless gives you a feeling for the amounts of money in play.

Here is the URL.

Have fun. I'll share my plan in a future blog. Please send me your ideas in the comments section below.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trip and new AP poll

No blog till next week: will be away on a fact-finding tour -- i.e. facts about the starry night skies over Vermont.

Note that a very recent AP poll supports what I've been saying about healthcare reform: the public supports it. In fact, 53% want to keep the law or strengthen it. The PTR is, as usual, talking nonsense about widespread rejection of the plan and of the Democrats. In fact, the poll shows that the PTR is no more popular than the Dems.

Well, bye for a few days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preliminary report of the "debt" committee

The co-chairs of the president's appointed "debt" commission have come out with some preliminary recommendations that should be taken with extreme skepticism. First of all, this was not a committee report in any sense, but just the work of the chairs Erskine Bowles, Clinton's former Chief of Staff and graduate of Morgan-Stanley U., and Alan K. Simpson, one of the least significant Senators in recent (non) memory, representing Marlboro Country in Wyoming. It's hard to understand how important matters were entrusted to these lightweights, but better go ask Obama for reasons.

Anyway, their personal report calls for lots of spending cuts -- mostly for socially useful programs, but even in the military (which will never happen) -- and some of the usual silliness about tax cuts. There's a little of a lot of stuff, but the axe will, as usual, fall on the middle class. Tax rates for the wealthy will be cut the most, of course: from a max of 35% to a max of 23% (way, way below Reagan-era rates). The comparable figures on the low end are 10% down t0 8% on those who spend nearly all of their money on necessities. This could only have sprung from the brow of Homer ... I mean Alan Simpson.

The plans for Social Security are worse. First of all, Social Security, contrary to popular rhetoric, is already means tested: up to 85% is subject to tax for higher income levels. However, money "earned" from investments is not subject to Social Security tax, nor is income in excess of$106,800. Bowles and Simpson are suggesting some sort of further means testing as well as reduction in cost of living adjustments. What can be the logic of not adjusting people's retirement income to compensate for a decline in the value of the dollar? Punish people who collect social security? They further suggest that the retirement age be increased to 69. That may be fine for people like them: lawyers, consultants, CEOs, professors; it's not so great for people who really get worn down working tough jobs: brick layers, construction workers, public school teachers, fishermen, etc. Frankly, I never heard of a "burnt out" investment banker -- did you?

Also, it is well-known that the problems of Social Security can be fixed very easily and elegantly by simply removing the cap on the income subject to the SS tax. This would guarantee life to the system for another half century at least, be a built-in means tester, and eliminate the need for lowering of benefits and raising the retirement age. Too bad that so many people who can afford to pay it -- that natural constituency for the eponymous Party for The Rich (formerly the GOP) -- oppose the idea.

I don't see any mention of a tax on individual stock transactions. What could be simpler than a flat tax -- like a sales tax -- of say 1/2 % on the market value of stocks bought/sold? True investors would hardly notice it. Furthermore, it just might reduce, if only slightly, the "churning" of the market caused by day traders and other social parasites who are trying to make quick bucks on non-productive speculations.

The "plan" of Messrs Bowles and Simpson should be DOA. Let's see what the Committee as a whole can come up with.

Obama comes up a loser again. When will he begin to take his job seriously?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goozner: strategies to defend healthcare reform

In his very informative healthcare newsletter GoozNews, Merrill Goozner discusses the various threats and strategies arising from the Republican control of the House. He makes the very provocative point that supporters of the the Healthcare Bill should be willing to throw out the so-called "Individual Mandate" (IM) which requires that everyone have health insurance. This is the centerpiece of the opposition and the subject of the main legal challenge (lawsuits by around a dozen state Attorney's General) to the overall bill. Goozner reminds us that the IM was initially opposed by Obama when he campaigned (and was supported by Clinton), and was thrown in mostly to appease the Insurance Industry. Since this industry was among the many that helped campaign against Democrats -- and hence against the bill -- in the last election, they are hardly owed any loyalty.

If the Dems join the PTR (Party for The Rich) to jettison the IM, then the Insurance Industry will have to go through 50 state insurance "exchanges" in order to obtain premium relief to pay for those with pre-existing conditions who buy insurance -- which the companies are mandated to sell -- only when their conditions warrant it. This would be a nightmare for the companies since they would have to publicly display their costs and policy specs.

Goozner also has a discussion of this, as well as "defunding" issues, in the latest Fiscal Times.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two more issues where the people are with Dems

There are a few other issues where a clear majority of people support the position of the Democratic Party, though they may not know it since the the Dems are so cautious.

The first is the egregious Supreme Court decision in the "Citizen's United" case. Here, a huge majority in a fairly recent poll agreed with most Democrats (and even a few Republicans, though it helps the PTR) that the decision was a bad one: Citizen's United.

Another issue is the regulation of Wall Street. Once again the population at large supports strong regulation, as do the Dems but not the PTR: Regulate Wall Street.

Once again, it's the terrible Democratic propaganda machine, not Nancy Pelosi, that is hurting them. Is there no talent out there on the Left?

Reid's campaign

Thanks to Maxine for pointing out to me this interesting article about Harry Reid's campaign, which appeared in today's Las Vegas Sun.

This is an example of the Democrats' need for a highly talented "minister of information" (or "propaganda"). Reid's campaign was prepared from before day one. They had material on all prospective opposition candidates and were able to use it to help the Republicans select the stupidest and least disciplined, Sharron Angle. Then they blasted her early and often with The Truth: her own words and her own idiocy. This wasn't a smear of the type Republicans trot out, but a simple presentation of things she herself had said and clearly believed.

Are the Dems doing THIS RIGHT NOW? Or will they wait, as usual, for the Republicans to set the agenda and phraseology for the 2012 election? We are already reading in the press nonsense about how there is a historic rightward shift in the electorate, and how people are against Obama and, in particular, his healthcare plan. This is all baloney.

Yes, people are unhappy with the recently passed healthcare bill. But they are not unhappy with the actual provisions in the bill itself. The very effective Republican propaganda machine has tied the bill and Obama to socialism and high unemployment. Americans are conditioned to hate and fear both. Since they largely don't understand what's in the bill, they now hate and fear the bill. Already they are blaming it, totally irrationally, for the bad behavior of the economy. Yet, when polled on actual provisions of the bill -- for example, forbidding denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions or caps on coverage, and an expanded drug coverage (elimination of the "doughnut hole" -- a still substantial majority effectively favors the bill. Here are a few of these poll summaries: an old one and a newer one. AARP, the largest and most effective senior citizen lobby, also supports not only provisions of the bill, but the bill itself.

What this indicates is that the Democrats are losing the propaganda war. They haven't been able to convince people that the bill that was passed embodies many of the things that people want and still support. Also, many people feel that the bill that was passed doesn't go far enough. The so-called "public option" is still as popular as before, even though Obama and many Dems made sure it was deep-sixed long before the bill was voted on.

This past election was not a referendum on what is actually good for this country. It was a referendum on which propaganda machine was most effective. As usual, the Democratic effort was largely fact-based on most issues: healthcare, economy, climate-change; yet it was unskillful and unprepared (see the Reid article cited above for an exception). The Republican effort was, as usual, untruthful and fact-avoiding, yet extremely effective given the economy and joblessness in particular.

The election was unfortunate in that people with no program and no desire to face difficult and complicated facts were elected. But it was not particularly historic, and hardly an indicator of the path that is objectively best for us to pursue.

Schoolkids: Teacher, is our class Easter Bunny a girl or a boy?
Teacher: Well class, why don't we take a vote?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Krugman on Obama

Might as well check out Krugman's as usual right-on-target column. He, also, says that now is the time for Obama to get together some fight and not concede anything to the conservatives.

The conservatives have been wrong on economics for a long time now. Their power was consolidated for many of the years when they controlled both houses of Congress during Bush's presidency. They got what they wanted -- tax cuts and de-regulation -- and failed. Economics may not be a science, but it doesn't take an Isaac Newton to recognize when a theory does not pass the test of experiment in the real world. Now they have regained a lot of power -- at least negative, program-killing power. What do they want? More tax cuts and deregulation and repeal of healthcare reform. They failed to destroy the economy first time around. Now they have another chance.

Jon Stewart made a good point the other night. Why would the Republicans want to offer up any sort of plan to help the economy? Suppose they do nothing. If the economy rebounds, they will claim that their recent control of the House led to the improvement. If the economy remains bad or tanks further, they will continue to blame healthcare reform and other Democratic programs. It has become clear that truth or reason have very little to do with who gets praised, blamed or elected these days (goodbye Russ Feingold).

Too bad we don't have a party willing to fight them. Nice that Obama is chatting them up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Now what?

Supposedly Obama is inviting Boehner and other Republicans to the White House for dinner or some such. The rags say he's trying to work out a compromise with them (LOL). Some people never learn. They already said that they want to make his Presidency a failure and have shown that they mean it.

Truman presided over an even bigger Democratic loss in 1946. He came out swinging. There are lots of things a president can do that don't require Congress. For example, gearing up enforcement agencies (like NLRB) and giving directives to the IRS. The Attorney General has some clout that doesn't require Congress. (Yeah, like he set the AG to argue for retaining Don'tAskDon'tTell -- just a little longer.) But mainly, he has to come out swinging. Get on TV and name names of obstructionists and what they are obstructing. There are a lot of unemployed people out there whose benefits will run out under Republican control of the House. Is it too much to ask of the feeble Dem propaganda machine ("DemProp"?) that they make it clear what is happening and who's screwing them? It seems just as likely that the Republicans will successfully blame the Democrats when unemployment benefits lapse.

I simply don't understand why the Dems can't find someone like Karl Rove to handle their strategy and message; to head up DemProp. Why don't they advertise for someone: "Needed: smart person to handle propaganda for major political party. Must be as smart and effective as Karl Rove. Astronomical salary for the right person." They have to start their PR NOW NOW NOW. They always wait too long; I've been saying this for years -- I'm sure you can find it in an old blog. The progressive message is not as simple-minded as the conservative one, and requires preparation.

Alas, they're already caving I'm afraid. I hope Obama has a pleasant dinner with the people who will soon finish cutting his throat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election results

Well, not as bad as it could have been.

It was nice to see awful candidates lose: Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Carl Paladino in New York, and Carly Fiorino in California. Both Angle and O'Donnell are true Tea-Screamer religious loonies -- not part of the reality-based community. Fiorino is a rich contemptuous corporate has-been, and Paladino an outright thug. Hope we never see any of them again.

It was terrible to see Russ Feingold lose -- and hard to understand. If ever there was a senator who voted from principle and often against the wishes of his party, it was Feingold. His defeat was emblematic of the sheer idiocy of the "vote out all incumbents" position. And I was just beginning to think that Wisconsin might actually be a non-coastal state with a reasonable voting population...

Generally speaking, the distribution of intelligent voting in this election reinforces my sports-rooting algorithm: North over South, Coastal over Central and (for a tie-breaker), East over West. (The World Series SF Giants over Texas Rangers was a no-brainer, even considering my ex-New Yorker sensibilities against the renegade Giants and Dodgers.)

Here in New England, sanity generally prevails. In fact, with the exception of the Senatorial race in NH, Republicans did very poorly, as they ought. Deval Patrick, the mediocre Governor with a heart of gold beat Charlie Baker, the rather effective ex-healthcare administrator with a heart of ... well, whatever stout Republican hearts are made of. Baker turned around Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) when it was on the brink of financial disaster. People who worked for HPHC seem to be impressed (which is more than the folks at HP were with Carly Fiorina). However, his prescription for Massachusetts was the usual Republican tax-cut & trim waste, less regulation less government spending baloney.

Barney Frank was also re-elected, in spite of his screw-up over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (he thought they were in fine shape until they collapsed). This lapse is more than made up for, in my opinion, by his generally good work for his constituents (ranging from upper middle-class professionals in Newton to people in the fishing industry at the other end of his district) and his recent efforts on behalf of consumer protection in the recently passed financial regulation legislation.

We still don't know whether Lisa Murkowsky will win in Alaska. I for one don't care: Alaskans are, generally, both greedy and not too swift. They get far more than they deserve or contribute in federal funds, yet maintain that they are "independent" and don't need government. This is typical swinish behavior. Most states where voters complain about "big government" get more from the feds than they contribute in taxes. Murkowski will do her best to continue this; her Palin endorsed opponent (Miller) may try to as well. Since the Democrat McAdams will not win, one can only, perhaps, hope Murkowsky's write-in win would discredit Palin -- whatever discrediting Sarah Palin might mean at this point.

All in all, it could have been worse.