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Peter Robinson on the ObamaCons Disillusionment:

Peter Robinson has a piece in Forbes.com today on the discovery by David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, and David Gergen that President Obama is actually a liberal:

A couple of implications here are worth noting. The first is that a deep, recurring pattern of American life has asserted itself yet again: the cluelessness of the elite.

Buckley, Gergen and Brooks all attended expensive private universities, then spent their careers moving among the wealthy and powerful who inhabit the seaboard corridor running from Washington to Boston. If any of the three strolled uninvited into a cocktail party in Georgetown, Cambridge or New Haven, the hostess would emit yelps of delight. Yet all three originally got Obama wrong.

Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away, or with Thomas Sowell, who occupies probably the most unfashionable position in the country, that of a black conservative.

Limbaugh and Sowell both got Obama right from the very get-go. "Just what evidence do you have," Sowell replied when I asked, shortly before the election, whether he considered Obama a centrist, "that he's anything but a hard-left ideologue?"

The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right. As our national drama continues to unfold, bear that in mind.

I was actually present at that interview with Thomas Sowell and I recall that was the moment at which it began to dawn on me that there was simply no factual basis for believing that Obama was anything except extremely liberal.

I don't know that I would agree with Peter that the main problem here is the cluelessnes of the elite, although that is at least part of it. The passion for these ObamaCons and their desire to believe against all evidence that Obama was a moderate I think was spurred in large part because of their revulsion against Sarah Palin. In that sense, the polite establishment position was to distance oneself from the yahoos in the Republican Party in favor of the urbane Obama (although I'm not quite sure how Joe Biden fits in here). Whatever the motivation, the desire of many to believe that Obama was a moderate was really just a triumph of wishful thinking and a desire to believe that was true, rather than any actual facts.

I think that there were a few other factors that drove the willingness of Brooks, Buckley, Gergen, et al., to believe that Obama was a moderate, despite all evidence to the contrary. First, Obama himself seems like he should be a political moderate because his personality comes across as so calm and moderate. Most people, whether far-right or far-left tend to have more extreme personalities as well. Obama doesn't come across as a radical bomb-thrower (remember Brooks's fawning profile of Obama's discussion of Niebuhr?). So there is a tendency to infer from Obama's calm personality that he is a moderate. Second, some of the ideas that are floating around (like new tax increases and aggressive regulation in the midst of a recession and unrestrained budget-busting spending) just seemed so implausible that I think there was a tendency to discount them as something that Obama simply wasn't serious about and that perhaps they were nothing more than political posturing. Turns out it looks like he was serious about them.

As I confessed back in the fall, until I really looked at his positions carefully (prompted by Sowell's comment) that Obama's extremism really sunk in to me. For those with more of a personal crush on Obama (or a desire to want to believe in him) it looks like it took a longer time for this to sink in.

cboldt (mail):
-- The passion for these ObamaCons and their desire to believe against all evidence that Obama was a moderate I think was spurred in large part because of their revulsion against Sarah Palin. --
.
Hardly a rational sequence of logic there. Not at all unusual among the pundit/clueless class. They get ZERO sympathy from me.
.
And, FWIW, others look at the same Obama statements that you do, and do not conclude there is any "extremism."
3.6.2009 1:55pm
Hoosier:
In other shocking news, the Cubs suck.
3.6.2009 1:56pm
Frog Leg (mail):
Is it that they are discovering that Obama is a radical liberal, or is it that they are discovering how far right of the country's center they themselves are? Not that they would be able to tell the difference.
3.6.2009 1:59pm
hattio1:
I'm just going to note that this post takes it as a given (rather than providing any argument or evidence) that Obama is "extremely liberal." Okay, he's proposed a lot of spending (over the next ten years). So did Bush. Is Bush extremely liberal? As for the sunsetting of the tax breaks, does that presume that Clinton, Reagan, Bush I, and all the presidents in the 50's were "extremely liberal," when our taxes were even higher?
3.6.2009 2:01pm
Fugle:
Iowahawk hits it on the nose here.
3.6.2009 2:01pm
hattio1:
Frog leg,
You made my point...and a lot more succinctly.
3.6.2009 2:01pm
Hoosier:
Frog Leg

Gergen &Brooks???

I think I can answer that one.
3.6.2009 2:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
How's that revulsion for Sarah Palin working out?
Put you right in their with all the Kewl Kids who were trying to be among the intelligentsia.
Dandy way to come to a conclusion

You think the dems and msm had your number? PALIN THE MORON! SPURN PALIN OR BE FOREVER BANNED FROM THE BEST PARTIES!
Nah. All a coinkydink.
3.6.2009 2:10pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
1. BHO's personality isn't all that calm; he was clearly rattled during one of the debates. (BTW: I wasn't able to make a video of that, so I tried unsucessfully to get someone else to do it. A similar video of McCain being rattled in the same debate got about a half a million views. Send your thanks to FreeRepublic.com)

2. The other motivation is that they're just opportunists who wanted to be on the winning side.

3. The elite goes much higher than hacks like Brooks. They clearly wanted BHO to win, otherwise they could have easily had their MSM friends destroy his candidacy.
3.6.2009 2:10pm
amcalabrese (www):
My theory is that it was an issue of class. I guess I belong to the "bobo" class. I am a lawyer, and while not from the Ivy League I do have a masters from NYU and like hanging around intellectuals and pretending to be one.

Obama is "one of us". Well read, well spoken, well educated. He also is very good looking in a suit. He is cool, he is hip, he has a toned and beautiful intelligent wife.

In short, he is everything those in the "bobo" class want to be.

Granted I am a race traitor (many of those I interact with cannot understand how I voted for the yahoo). But I can understand the feeling of solidarity our class has with Obama.

So Brooks did not see someone who showed little indication of conservatism and moderate politics his entire career. He saw "one of us" and voted his class accordingly.
3.6.2009 2:12pm
wfjag:

For those with more of a personal crush on Obama (or a desire to want to believe in him) it looks like it took a longer time for this to sink in.

Or, maybe it's when your trust fund is tanking and you might have to go get a real job for the first time in your life.
3.6.2009 2:12pm
Steve:
If Obama is an extreme, hard-left ideologue, that doesn't leave a lot of room to stick labels on Hugo Chavez.

The fact is that the people who labelled Obama as a "socialist" are proclaiming victory pursuant to nothing other than their own judgment. Well, that's great, but in other news, people who are unaccustomed to changing their mind seldom feel that they have been proven wrong.
3.6.2009 2:14pm
Constantin:
Todd, the animating force behind this blindness to and acceptance of Obama was the desire not to be seen as an impediment to the first black president.

The whole thing was about race. A white guy so clearly talking out of both sides of his mouth would have been mocked as a joke, even considering Palin and media bias and Bush fatigue and everything else.
3.6.2009 2:14pm
CJColucci:
Anyone who takes the "insights" of Brooks, Buckley, and Gergen seriously deserves what he, or she, gets. For all the talk of a lib'rul media, there's a center-right consensus of well-off, well-insulated pundits -- none of whom have worked as shoe-leather reporters in ages, if at all -- who really do think that the problems and concerns of high-salaried, but not independently wealthy, not very hard-working folks like them are what Serious People care, or should care, about, with occasional trips to a diner or chats with a cab driver to give them the views of Real People.
Obama campaigned quite openly as a liberal Democrat and he won. People who thought of him as a "moderate centrist" mistook personality for policy. After all, nice people can't possibly have politics other than mine, can they? Or maybe they thought he didn't mean what he said. "Disillusionment" isn't a synonym for "I saw what I wanted to see."
3.6.2009 2:18pm
The Unbeliever:
In that sense, the polite establishment position was to distance oneself from the yahoos in the Republican Party in favor of the urbane Obama (although I'm not quite sure how Joe Biden fits in here).
Joe Biden fits in just as well as any other random white guy, attending one of the good Reverend Jeremiah Wright's more fiery sermons and yelling "Amen!" at the most curious moments.

(There wasn't a point to this post, other than to rag on Biden, which is its own justification. As someone on NRO's Corner pointed out a while ago, the actual "historic" moment on election day was that America believed it was a good idea to have Joe Biden one heartbeat away from the Presidency.)
3.6.2009 2:19pm
Sarcastro (www):
Xtreme Liberalism, Xtreme Liberalism, Xtreme Liberalism!

NO Guns!
ALL Gays!
NO Smoking!

SURRENDER to Terrorists!
LEGISLATE no more jobs for White Men!
EUTHANIZE All the infirm!

That's right, ladies and gents! For the low, low price of paying attention only to financial policy, you too can make YOUR PRESIDENT an Xtreme Liberal! Pay no attention to social issues and ignore any future non-liberal policies once you've created your narrative!

You, too can feel the hope you will win in 2010 AND 2012 because America was bamboozled! It's easy AND fun!

Xtreme Liberalism, Xtreme Liberalism, Xtreme Liberalism!

Start blaming today!
3.6.2009 2:23pm
Le Messurier (mail):
hattio1 said:

I'm just going to note that this post takes it as a given (rather than providing any argument or evidence) that Obama is "extremely liberal." Okay, he's proposed a lot of spending (over the next ten years). So did Bush. Is Bush extremely liberal? As for the sunsetting of the tax breaks, does that presume that Clinton, Reagan, Bush I, and all the presidents in the 50's were "extremely liberal," when our taxes were even higher?

Check this out to see why he not only a liberal but is a flaming liberal:

Obama's Radicalism
3.6.2009 2:26pm
The Unbeliever:
If Obama is an extreme, hard-left ideologue, that doesn't leave a lot of room to stick labels on Hugo Chavez.
Hard-left in the American sense. Just like the Conservative Party in the UK doesn't quite match up with what American "conservatives" espouse (though there's enough overlap to safely place each on the same side of the one-dimensional left/right spectrum).

Or, to put it another way, I bet even the Communist Party USA has an internal wing of members it views as "extreme", whereas the distinction may not make a lot of difference when considering the global spectrum.
3.6.2009 2:27pm
Recovering Law Grad:
The top marginal tax rate from 1951 until 1963 was 90%. Repeat: 90%. The top marginal tax rate from 1964 until 1982 was at or around 70%. Repeat: 70%. (I realize that the brackets were different, but these numbers are fairly astonishing nonetheless.)

Obama proposes that the top rate now be 39%, which it was as recently as that dark period of communism known as the 90s.

Were Truman, Nixon and Eisenhower radical extremists?

An intellectually honest person simply cannot look at the modern history of this country and posit Obama as a "radical." He certainly is more "leftist" (I love how that word is now common parlance btw, as if Obama emerged from an equatorial jungle wearing fatigues) than Bush, but it is truly ridiculous to say that falling to the left of Bush makes one some sort of revolutionary.

Please try to debate the ideas rather than devolve to name calling.
3.6.2009 2:32pm
LN (mail):
Has anyone taken a poll to see what Obama's approval rating is now? Or to see how many Americans oppose the stimulus package, or how many Americans support the Republican Party? Given that Obama's taken off the mask and revealed himself to be a hybrid of Castro, Lenin, and Mao, I'd be surprised if his approval rating was above, oh, 60%.
3.6.2009 2:33pm
Steve:
"Hard-left in the American sense" sounds a lot like "I want to call this guy hard-left even though he isn't according to any reasonable definition of the term." Just because Brooks et al. are admitting to misjudging Obama, don't expect them to start agreeing with you that Obama and Bill Ayers are actually two peas in a pod.
3.6.2009 2:34pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
I agree with Hattio that Frog Leg pegged this one early on.
3.6.2009 2:35pm
BABH:
Tax increases, regulation and stimulus spending are far from "implausible" things to do in a recession. They are an important reason why Obama was elected over John McCain. McCain was doing OK in the polls until the economy went south. Palin was just the final nail in the coffin.

Our so-called "center-right" nation now overwhelmingly trusts Democrats over Republicans on economic issues - by a 48-20 percent margin.
3.6.2009 2:41pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The passion for these ObamaCons and their desire to believe against all evidence that Obama was a moderate I think was spurred in large part because of their revulsion against Sarah Palin.
Yup. One of those people who was completely unacceptable because her religious beliefs lined up with about 30-40% of the American public, graduated from an undistinguished state university (like about 90% of American college graduates), and actually had some experience in the real world before going into politics. Ooooh, the evil Sarah Palin!

One of these days, the Republican Party leadership will reflect its membership--and probably start winning elections with regularity. And at that point, we'll make a point of rubbing the noses of the elites in the crap that they gave us because Governor Palin reminded you that there's someone besides the elite in America.
3.6.2009 2:43pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The top marginal tax rate from 1951 until 1963 was 90%. Repeat: 90%.
So what. It isn't the top tax rates that concern me. I'm not a liberal Democrat, so I will never make $500,000 a year.

What concerns us are creeping nationalization of industries, cap-and-trade and the inevitable corruption it will introduce, while reducing us to a Third World nation, his enthusiasm for disarming law-abiding adults for the benefit of Mexico, and his willingness to destroy any economic future for our children.
3.6.2009 2:46pm
Gordo:
There's another kind of revulsion here other than against Sarah Palin from Brooks, Buckley, Gergen (and perhaps Douglas Kmiec).

It's a revulsion against the utter quagmire so-called Republican conservatism got us into by the end of 2008.

An economy destroyed, at least in significant part, by unregulated free market financial chicanery. Budget-busting by a Republican Congress and Republican President, including huge new deficits (and NOW you're concerned ?!). An ill-planned war in the Middle East - fine in concept, disastrous in execution. And, most contemptibly, an attempt to make Richard Nixon's "Imperial Presidency" look like Disneyland in comparison, complete with claims to unfettered wiretapping, unlimited and indefinite detention of anyone deemed suspect, and torture.

After that, even a leftier Obama than expected is, quite frankly, a huge relief.
3.6.2009 2:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Our so-called "center-right" nation now overwhelmingly trusts Democrats over Republicans on economic issues - by a 48-20 percent margin.
Even though Democrats started this in 1999 by directing Fannie Mae to make subprime mortgages and encourage others to do so, and blocked Bush's half-hearted attempts to get this circus under control in 2003. It does help to have control of the major news source for most Americans, that's for sure.
3.6.2009 2:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The supposed blindness toward Obama is kind of funny, if you like laughing at the clueless. Which I do, if the clueless have been at pains to explain their superiority.
The really, really ludicrous thing is how many of the superior class, or as an earlier commenter referred to, the "bobo" class, figured Biden would be a better Veep than Palin.
3.6.2009 2:53pm
Le Messurier (mail):


Recovering Law Grad said:

An intellectually honest person simply cannot look at the modern history of this country and posit Obama as a "radical."

And RLG cited nothing more than tax rates to make his argument. Well, I'll repeat: Check this out; it ain't just about taxes!:
Obama's Radicalism
3.6.2009 2:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

An economy destroyed, at least in significant part, by unregulated free market financial chicanery.
Uh, no. Here's the September 30, 1999 New York Times article where experts warn that Clinton's push for more subprime lending would lead to a catastrophe requiring a major federal government bailout. And here's the September 11, 20003 New York Times article where the Bush Administration asked Congress to increase regulation on this, and the Democrats stopped it.
3.6.2009 2:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

And, most contemptibly, an attempt to make Richard Nixon's "Imperial Presidency" look like Disneyland in comparison, complete with claims to unfettered wiretapping, unlimited and indefinite detention of anyone deemed suspect, and torture.
You aren't being honest. The claim was to unfettered wiretapping of communications crossing national boundaries (not new at all) of traffic analysis of messages (not wiretapping). While I disagreed with them about Padilla, the claim of "unlimited and indefinite detention" was not "anyone" but those engaged in unlawful combat. Many of those at Gitmo were captured by warlords who may not have done so properly, but this is hardly "anyone."

And torture? Obama's CIA director Panetta refused to characterize waterboarding as torture.
3.6.2009 3:00pm
PC:
What concerns us are creeping nationalization of industries

Yes, those far left radicals James Baker and Alan Greenspan are agitating for bank nationalization. You know who isn't supporting nationalization? Comrade Obama.
3.6.2009 3:05pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Beyond the fact that the last two elections indicate the U.S. is not the "center right" country that the "D.C. elites" keep telling us we are, I'm always amused by the constant use of the trope "Georgetown cocktail parties" in these right wing visions of the world. See also, "Republican Supreme Court appointees are always seduced by those Georgetown cocktail parties and then they turn all liberal!"

Seriously, don't conservatives throw cocktail parties? I'm friends with some conservatives who know how to make a drink and have a good time. There certainly were a bunch of conservatives in D.C. -- and yes, Georgetown -- in recent years. How come they don't have seductive cocktail parties?
3.6.2009 3:07pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
Some people just wanted to vote for a cool young black president. They didn't even notice that he's incompetent and supports evil policies. Idiots! I hope they were heavily in the market. I'll stay in inflation indexed Treasuries and gold for the time being.
3.6.2009 3:11pm
Rock On:
@Joseph Slater
In fact, I would guess a near majority of cocktail parties in Georgetown are right-of-center. As opposed to, say, Tenleytown or Bethesda, where that charge might actually make some sense.
3.6.2009 3:12pm
arthur:
The claim that Rush Limbaugh doesn't get invited to cocktail parties is completely false. He's the sone of a very prominent lawyer, a close relaative of a federal judge, a multi-millionaire, and as "elite" as anyone on the list. He's also as out of touch with "ordinary Americans" as anyone, since ordinary Americans give Obama 67% or so approval ratings (unless Acorn is gaming olinion polls too).
3.6.2009 3:15pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Rock On:

As a former DC resident (Adams Morgan, more liberal cocktail parties), I agree with your geographic breakdown. But in the right-wing blogosphere, it's only conservatives going to liberal cocktail parties and then getting converted. Maybe the liberals just have the better hors d'oeurves.
3.6.2009 3:16pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Arthur:

The faux-populist stuff from the right is getting pretty deep these days. I guess all those pointy-headed elites in Ohio just didn't understand what a genuine article "Joe the Plumber" was when the state went for Obama.
3.6.2009 3:20pm
PC:
How come they don't have seductive cocktail parties?

They do, but you have to bring you own wetsuit.
3.6.2009 3:21pm
LN (mail):
Rush Limbaugh makes $30 million a year. He's like a regular guy.


It does help to have control of the major news source for most Americans, that's for sure.


Shorter Clayton Cramer: stooopid Americans are too stooopid to know what's good for them. If they just stopped thinking for themselves and listened to non-elites like myself they'd have much better opinions.
3.6.2009 3:22pm
Ohadam (mail):
Cramer, your syllogism is missing a premise (making it an enthymeme, I believe): Fannie Mae's subprime loans defaulted more than other subprime loans did.

Please substantiate this premise.
3.6.2009 3:22pm
Sagar:
David Brooks is apparently getting "un-disillusioned" again :)

But I agree with several posters that pegging obama as hard-core leftwing socialist is only possible from a certain vantage point (on the far right).

Sarcastro:

For the low, low price of paying attention only to financial policy ...

who is calling Obama Xtreme liberal "... for paying attention only to financial policy"?

as Orin Kerr commented a few days ago, the shtick falls flat if you have to invent stuff to make fun of.
3.6.2009 3:23pm
BABH:
Joseph Slater:

Left-wing bloggers like Atrios and Glen Greenwald are keenly critical of liberals who are corrupted by conservative cocktail parties. They call them journalists.
3.6.2009 3:24pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Curious Passerby:

The "wanted to vote for a cool black guy" theory of the 2008 election fails to account for, among other things, the complete thumping the Democrats gave to the Republicans at pretty much every level of government (see, e.g., Congress) for the second straight election.
3.6.2009 3:25pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
BABH:

Thanks goodness for balance! Although I am not one myself, I always knew that conservatives could be decent hosts.
3.6.2009 3:26pm
Calderon:
The top marginal tax rate from 1951 until 1963 was 90%. Repeat: 90%. The top marginal tax rate from 1964 until 1982 was at or around 70%. Repeat: 70%. (I realize that the brackets were different, but these numbers are fairly astonishing nonetheless.)

Adjusting for inflation, the tax bracket at which the 90% rate kicked in for 1963 was over $2.7 million in annual income. From 1972 to 1981 the top rate for earned income (primarily salary and wage income) was 50%.
3.6.2009 3:26pm
PC:
The "wanted to vote for a cool black guy" theory of the 2008 election fails to account for, among other things, the complete thumping the Democrats gave to the Republicans at pretty much every level of government (see, e.g., Congress) for the second straight election.

Michael Steele calls that the "bling-bling" effect.
3.6.2009 3:27pm
Real American (mail):
These Obamacons were sucked in by Obama well before Sarah Palin came along. That may have been the last straw for them, but they were being fooled long before that. Anyway, they weren't the only ones. Obama's campaign was so vague on its promises of "hope and change" that he became the blank slate upon which many people saw what they wanted to see. These so-called conservative elites saw what they wanted to see: a moderate liberal intellectual. Instead, he's a raging socialist. Sure, his mannerisms are cool and somewhat collected (when there's a teleprompter) but that hardly speaks to what he was going to do once elected.

His liberal voting record, his associations with extremists in Chicago (Ayers, Wright, etc) and his creepy authoritarian speeches should have given it away. To us that were paying attention, it did.

The funny thing is that conservatives like Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber saw then what these so-called elites are seeing now, and apparently the former are the dunces and the latter are the enlightened ones. Once again, they've been proven to be wrong, but they'll never give credit where credit is due - to conservatives like Palin and Joe the Plumber.
3.6.2009 3:36pm
highway61:
I'm not convinced that a centrist wouldn't take the exact same approach that Obama is, given the state of things. I would like to know what people would consider a "centrist" response to the current crisis.
3.6.2009 3:36pm
Anon321:
To echo arthur above, the notion that Rush Limbaugh's "appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away" is completely absurd. Limbaugh is a huge celebrity and a multi-, multi-millionaire. If he gets a chilly reception at chic cocktail parties -- which I doubt, frankly -- it's because many people perceive him to be bombastic and vitriolic (i.e., perhaps an unpleasant conversationalist), not because he's insufficiently "elite" or too "blue collar."
3.6.2009 3:37pm
Wikipedia Brown (mail):
Why does this alleged disillusionment even matter? So what if he's ultra-liberal? I have no confidence that any Republican would have made better choices for one reason: The neoconservatives run that party now and they want to expand government infinitely more than the liberals. Sad, but true.

Also Brooks et al can take comfort in the fact that even though Obama is liberal he, unlike his predecessor, is at least a pragmatic politician. That tends to temper one's ideological tendencies and thus far I think that has been the case. Perhaps there is some buyers' remorse out there but it's unfounded and irrational.
3.6.2009 3:39pm
eddie (mail):
What's more incredible is that these same people won't acknowledge how radically to the right this nation was moved in secret by the last administration. Right/left/center can only have a context when there is a frame of reference. Let's just apply a simple test. Letting the tax cuts expire is now being touted by those "center-rightist" as socialism.

These labels ceased to have meaning long ago.
3.6.2009 3:46pm
MartyA:
Liberal, radical, my Aunt Fannie! The guy is an empty suit, a nothing guy who wouldn't be employed ANYWHERE were he not black.
Why do you think that so much of his personal history from birth certificate, to medical record, to transcripts and thesis is censored? HE IS HIDING THINGS! He has been managed by a team of Chicago pols and he is the product of that process.
I believe Obama is lazy and has history that wouldn't be acceptable in a professional ball player. It isn't that he is evil, it's just that he has no idea what he is doing. He is the very sheltered high school kid who finds he can force the nation to move in directions urged by comic book heroes.
In the very short run, we can only hope that "journalists" will do what the wouldn't do when they should have.
3.6.2009 3:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Some time back, there were reports that the Congressional Budget Office opined that doing nothing would be more helpful than the stimpak as then contemplated.
If this is true, and if the CBO knows what day it is, then doing more is worse than doing less and doing more than has ever been done before is worse than anything ever done before.
To put it in more moderate terms, some of this might not actually be necessary.
As some have pointed out, we got here without problems of too-few college grads, lack of regulation on energy policy, and with chaotic health care arrangements. Which is to say, fixing those isn't going to address the problems. And those are the focus of the stimpak, not the actual problems.
Is it true that we're going to have 250,000 more federal employees, or is that the total between feds, state and local?
3.6.2009 3:50pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
Suppose John McCain had one the election. In what significant ways would his actions since January 20th have differed from Obama's?
3.6.2009 3:51pm
Anon321:
He has been managed by a team of Chicago pols and he is the product of that process.

Out of curiosity, who are these nefarious Chicago pols who are pulling the strings behind the scene? I've long suspected Ozzie Guillen's involvement, and I note with some interest that Matt Forte's ascension of the ranks of fantasy football coincided almost exactly with Obama's triumph in the Democratic primary. It's suspicious, at least.
3.6.2009 3:53pm
rick.felt:
First, Obama himself seems like he should be a political moderate because his personality comes across as so calm and moderate

I really have never understood the Obama "temperament" thing. He doesn't seem any more calm or poised than any other politician who has never had a public blowup. And when he gets into his call-and-response "fired up/ready to go" thing, or puts on preacher-man voice and starts talking about the rise of the oceans slowing, well, he doesn't look calm or moderate at all.

There's probably some racism here. You see a black guy and you expect him to be angry. When he's not yelling at you, you call him "calm and moderate." I submit that "temperament" is the new "articulate."
3.6.2009 3:55pm
rick.felt:
Suppose John McCain had one the election.

I would be more concerned if he had eight the election.
3.6.2009 3:56pm
Anon321:
Seriously, think about it: Obama often wears a Chicago White Sox hat. Ozzie Guillen manages the White Sox. Guillen is Venezeulan. Hugo Chavez is President of Venezuela, and a socialist. Ergo, Obama is a socialist. If only "journalists" would recognize this.
3.6.2009 4:00pm
DiversityHire:
Folks point to Palin as a turning point, but I think Huckabee drove more people away from the Republicans. He makes my skin crawl. I wonder how a Huckabee administration would be hanging right now?
3.6.2009 4:01pm
Houston Lawyer:
Stormy

First of all, he wouldn't have given $1 trillion dollars to liberal interest groups. He also would be trying to fix the financial crisis before trying to bring in the socialist paradise.

Anyone who voted for Obama expecting anything other than what he is delivering now is a chump.

Most of the posters here seem to think he is some kind of moderate Republican.
3.6.2009 4:01pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> including huge new deficits (and NOW you're concerned ?!).

Let's make sure that I understand the argument.

You thought that Bush's deficits were bad (although not bad enough to propose less spending). So now you think that even larger deficits are okay.
3.6.2009 4:03pm
Steve:
Some time back, there were reports that the Congressional Budget Office opined that doing nothing would be more helpful than the stimpak as then contemplated. If this is true, and if the CBO knows what day it is, then doing more is worse than doing less and doing more than has ever been done before is worse than anything ever done before.

Seriously, why didn't we just elect the CBO as president. We'd probably be out of the recession already.
3.6.2009 4:09pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
First of all, he wouldn't have given $1 trillion dollars to liberal interest groups.


Are you saying that he wouldn't have put forth a similar massive stimulus bill? Or is your complaint merely with the particulars of which interest groups are getting the pork?

Keep in mind that in October, 2008 McCain had no problem voting for Bush's $700 billion dollar bailout bill, which was just as loaded with pork. Indeed, if McCain is to believed, it wouldn't have passed without his leadership.
3.6.2009 4:12pm
Recovering Law Grad:
Calderon -

I certainly agree that comparing those rates to today's rates isn't apples-to-apples, as I alluded to in my parenthatical. But this supports my argument: what Obama is attempting do is nowhere near as radical as a 90% income tax on people making more than $2.7mm/year. Obama's plan cannot seriously be called "extremist" if it wasn't as aggressive as what we had during the wildly liberal 1950s. When your tax policy is to the right of Eisenhower, how can you be a radical communist?

(As to the actual rates, here's where I'm getting my info: www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts)
3.6.2009 4:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Fannie Mae's subprime loans defaulted more than other subprime loans did.
I'm hard presed to see how that affects anything. They encouraged and led the way, and had even less motivation to control risk than non-GSEs.
3.6.2009 4:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Some time back, there were reports that the Congressional Budget Office opined that doing nothing would be more helpful than the stimpak as then contemplated.
Here's the CBO report from January 8, 2009. The report explicitly says on page 1 that they assume “that current laws and policies regarding federal spending and taxation remain the same...” And their prediction on page 2? “CBO anticipates that the current recession, which started in December 2007, will last until the second half of 2009, making it the longest recession since World War II. (The longest such recessions otherwise, the 1973–1974 and 1981–1982 recessions, both lasted 16 months. If the current recession were to continue beyond midyear, it would last at least 19 months.)”

Democrats put this "loot the next generation for the benefit of our rich friends" bill together at the time when their own economists were telling them the economy would pull out if in a few more months.

Democrats are just thieves.
3.6.2009 4:22pm
MQuinn:
Does the evidence support the claim that Obama is a liberal?

E.g., a stimulus package that consisted of 1/3 tax cuts, an Iraq withdrawal that the GOP roundly supports, and intensifying our involvement in Afghanistan. Sounds pretty moderate to me!!

True, Obama has spent lots of money. However, this is a deep, deep recession, and the majority of economists believe federal spending is the most effective way to end a recession. Thus, the increased spending shouldn't necessarily brand Obama a radical half-commie liberal pinko, like many commenting on this blog would have us believe.
3.6.2009 4:23pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

In what significant ways would his actions since January 20th have differed from Obama's?
Probably more focus on tax cuts, and not throwing money to the various earmarks and ACORN subsidies. And of course, the news media would be actually, you know, examining the proposals as though they weren't carved on stone tablets.
3.6.2009 4:24pm
hattio1:
Highway 61 asks;

I'm not convinced that a centrist wouldn't take the exact same approach that Obama is, given the state of things. I would like to know what people would consider a "centrist" response to the current crisis.


Well, cut taxes of course!!! Don't you know that cutting taxes and getting involved in foreign wars ALWAYS solves America's problems...especially when not accompanied by any spending cuts. The deficit just magically vanishes, government will magically get smaller, though we shouldn't ask conservatives or centrists to do it, there's too many important things to be done by government. On the other hand attempting to stave off a recession is VERY unimportant compared to protecting America from non-existent WMD's that Iraq doesn't have the rocket capability to send anywhere near America anyway.
3.6.2009 4:25pm
Justin (mail):
At least as to Christopher Buckley

1) I don't think his endorsement was because he believed Obama to be a moderate, but that Obama was, apolitically, more suited to the job (temperment, education, leadership). Indeed, I believe he entertained the possibility that he'd govern like a tax-and-spend-and-tariff liberal, and just said he hopes that doesn't happen (with some bravado of overstatement).

2) I don't think his recent article criticizing Obama says that he thinks McCain can at all be properly said to be "admit"ting that Obama "may have indeed done worse--a lot worse."
3.6.2009 4:32pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Obama's plan cannot seriously be called "extremist" if it wasn't as aggressive as what we had during the wildly liberal 1950s. When your tax policy is to the right of Eisenhower, how can you be a radical communist?
You keep focusing on the least radical issue, and that's income tax rates.
3.6.2009 4:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Well, cut taxes of course!!! Don't you know that cutting taxes and getting involved in foreign wars ALWAYS solves America's problems...especially when not accompanied by any spending cuts. The deficit just magically vanishes, government will magically get smaller, though we shouldn't ask conservatives or centrists to do it, there's too many important things to be done by government.
Cutting spending is extremely important. Unfortunately, we just got done with a "compassionate conservative" which turned out to be code for a big spending moderate Republican.


On the other hand attempting to stave off a recession is VERY unimportant compared to protecting America from non-existent WMD's that Iraq doesn't have the rocket capability to send anywhere near America anyway.
Hint: two substantial bombings in recent American history were delivered by Ryder truck.
3.6.2009 4:39pm
Ortsacras:
Obama's not very liberal! And the fact that a majority of Americans support him means that this is now a liberal country!
3.6.2009 4:39pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I'm not convinced that a centrist wouldn't take the exact same approach that Obama is, given the state of things. I would like to know what people would consider a "centrist" response to the current crisis.
To start with, cutting taxes on the productive sector, instead of raising them. Delaying the implementation of cap and trade and socialized medicine. Targeted spending (assuming that you believed in Keynesian economics) instead of spending money on every liberal cause you can think of as "stimulus".

I think that the list could be continued for a long time.

Maybe a good starting place would have been Rush's idea of chopping up the "stimulus" amount by votes in the last election, spending the Democratic portion as increased government spending, and the Republican share as actual tax cuts (instead of the pretend "tax cuts" in the "stimulus" package that were instead redistributionist refundable tax credits to those who aren't paying income taxes already). That would have been fairly centrist.
3.6.2009 4:41pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
E.g., a stimulus package that consisted of 1/3 tax cuts, an Iraq withdrawal that the GOP roundly supports, and intensifying our involvement in Afghanistan. Sounds pretty moderate to me!!
It does not consist of 1/3 tax cuts. It consists of 1/3 direct transfers from tax payers to non-tax payers in the form of refundable tax credits. No matter how often they are called "tax cuts", they are no such thing.
3.6.2009 4:44pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Highway 61 asks;



I'm not convinced that a centrist wouldn't take the exact same approach that Obama is, given the state of things. I would like to know what people would consider a "centrist" response to the current crisis.


A centrist, or a rational person, would do any number of things differently then BO is doing. First he would exercise some leadership by being a positive person rather than expressing the constant negativity as he has done over the last several months. Yes we have a crises! But the day to day drumming is not a positive thing. People, including investors, are not going to buy or invest if our president doesn’t believe in the future and make them believe in the future. He has, on occasions, made some positive remarks. But they have not been convincing. By in large his daily verbal rants on the economy have terrorized the populace and have helped freeze the markets. FDR at least said “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Would that Obama were so comforting.

In addition, with the nation already plunging deep into debt to rescue the financial system and stimulate the economy, Obama's proposals for many hundreds of billions in additional spending on universal health care, universal postsecondary education, a massive overhaul of the energy economy, and other liberal programs are grandiose and unaffordable, to say nothing about the possibility of rampant runaway inflation. These alone, though further down the pike are near enough so that a rational person knows they will stall and reverse any recovery. Additionally, the “stimulus proposals” are hardly adequate. We need tax reduction where they will do some good, e.g., Capital gains, dividend taxes, rather than reducing incentives by raising them. We need to encourage investment by our entrepreneurs. At the present they are afraid to invest because they are fearful of the “leadership” in Washington.

Well, you asked what a “centrist” would do differently. There you have a good chunk of it.
3.6.2009 4:55pm
AlanfromOntario:

the cluelessness of the elite.

What unmitigated horseshyt!

Did Mr. Peter Robinson, man of the people that he is, dash off that column before or after he finished slopping the hogs this morning and rebuilding the baler on his combine?

Oh wait, Mr. anti-elite is a "fellow at the Hoover Institute.
3.6.2009 5:05pm
LN (mail):

It does not consist of 1/3 tax cuts. It consists of 1/3 direct transfers from tax payers to non-tax payers in the form of refundable tax credits. No matter how often they are called "tax cuts", they are no such thing.


Since when do payroll taxes not count as real taxes? Where does this nonsense come from? People who pay payroll taxes pay taxes!

It is true that even workers who do not earn enough to pay federal income taxes are still eligible for a tax credit. It is simply false to say that these are the ONLY workers who are seeing their taxes go down.
3.6.2009 5:14pm
DiversityHire:
Too much would have to have been different for McCain to have won the general election. So much different that he never would have won the primary. But, assuming all else to be equal, McCain as President would face strong opposition from the Democratic majority in Congress. We'd end up moving slower, with the result being uglier, less pure legislation that "both sides" would have to own up to. The situation we have now is "risky" in the sense that the Democrats will benefit from success and the Republicans from failure, there's no shared blame to cloud things up as there was with invading Iraq, passing the Patriot Act, NCLB, or last fall's bank welfare act. Having a rump opposition party raises the stakes.

One thing that's really looking-up: all the treacly earnestness seems to have given way to a huge dose of sarcasm from all quarters. That's change I can believe in!
3.6.2009 5:14pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
It does not consist of 1/3 tax cuts. It consists of 1/3 direct transfers from tax payers to non-tax payers in the form of refundable tax credits. No matter how often they are called "tax cuts", they are no such thing.


How come Bush's refundable tax credits (the child tax credit, for example) count as "tax cuts", but Obama's are "transfers from tax payers to non-tax payers"?
3.6.2009 5:24pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
Since when do payroll taxes not count as real taxes? Where does this nonsense come from? People who pay payroll taxes pay taxes!

They are NOT taxes! Gore told me they go into a lockbox for my future.
3.6.2009 5:32pm
LN (mail):
That reminds me -- have we privatized Social Security yet? Because I think that's something a moderate President would be interested in approaching.
3.6.2009 5:41pm
Principal Chair (mail):
Make no mistake...a major factor getting Obama elected was white guilt over slavery and the exhilaration they would feel over a black president.

I am an Asian-American and have no such guilt to cope with, and hence can call it as I see it.
3.6.2009 5:43pm
Frater Plotter:
I am an Asian-American and have no such guilt to cope with, and hence can call it as I see it.
I am a descendant of post-Civil-War immigrants and have no such guilt either, and I think that's full of pony exhaust.
3.6.2009 5:53pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
It was pointed out that Clayton Cramer's attributing the housing crisis to the Democrats' disinterest in another layer of bureaucracy on top of FNMA depended on an unstated premise., namely
Fannie Mae's subprime loans defaulted more than other subprime loans did.
I wish him luck in justifying said premise; the premise is false. Would you believe, those Credit Default Swaps are a much bigger problem, notwithstanding they weren't aimed at poor people of color?
3.6.2009 6:00pm
darrenm:
I had a headache from beating my head against the wall and grinding my teeth under Bush and was relieved the election was over. (I voted for McCain.) I knew Obama was a flaming liberal but afterwards wanted to believe (hoped) he was actually a smart political operator who was just using the Left for his own advancement. I hate being right about the wrong things.
3.6.2009 6:09pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
The top marginal tax rate from blah blah blah

No one paid the top marginal rate because it was so easy to avoid it. That’s why the AMT was enacted, why spaghetti western’s got made, why tax attorneys were sexy and made dentists and doctors. The tax system as you know it was enacted by Tip O’Neil and Reagan, it cut taxes, broadened the base and annihilated all the hum drum easy shelters. Go read General Utilities for an elementary example of why no one paid those rates.
3.6.2009 6:51pm
Tim Starr (mail) (www):
How could anyone have ever believed that President Token was anything but a hard-left ideologue? What astounds me is how he manages to fool so many of the people so much of the time, including many who really ought to know better.
3.6.2009 6:52pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):

Also Brooks et al can take comfort in the fact that even though Obama is liberal he, unlike his predecessor, is at least a pragmatic politician.

How pragmatic are carbon taxes?
3.6.2009 6:53pm
Desiderius:
LN,

"That reminds me -- have we privatized Social Security yet? Because I think that's something a moderate President would be interested in approaching."

Good point. I'd be very supportive. Buy low, sell high. Progressives in the 22nd Century will wonder why we didn't.
3.6.2009 6:54pm
MCM (mail):
Did nobody read Brooks' new column today?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/06/opinion/06brooks.html?_r=1

Pretty dramatic reversal. Brooks still things they are trying to do "too much ... too fast" but he's "optimistic".
3.6.2009 7:02pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Clayton Cramer hits a two-fer, sort of.
They [Fannie and Freddie] encouraged and led the way, and had even less motivation to control risk than non-GSEs.
Except, as a matter of history, that simply isn't true. Fannie and Freddie weren't even allowed to offer most of the more outrageous types of mortgages: no option-ARMs, no negative amortization loans. To the extent that they liberalized their policies, it was in response to the (erroneous) idea that they should be run more like a business. As for incentives, the compensation package for FNMA executives was laundry change for their private industry counterparts. Perhaps the Republican doctrine of making wealth flow upwards influenced the risk/reward strategies of private banks. Hmmmm.
Here's the CBO report from January 8, 2009. The report explicitly says on page 1 that they assume “that current laws and policies regarding federal spending and taxation remain the same...”
In this case, doing "nothing" means letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule. When the cuts were first passed, the sunset provision was added in order to minimize the huge (although, now, not so huge) deficits that they would create starting about now. And as the CBO understands it, they had to make their calculations based on the sunsetting, and also on the AMT law as it stood, and not after the inevitable modifications. What the deficit and economy would look like under a continuation of the Bush plan, I shudder to think.
3.6.2009 7:51pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Of course, this happens from the opposing side too. As the proprietor of the Palin Rumors list, I've noticed that there are several of the demonstrably false rumors that still appear every so often -- occasionally on the part of VC bloggers, as I recall. Most recently (although not a VC blogger in this case) was the astonishment in some quarters that Palin appointed a former member of Planned Parenthood to the state Supreme Court -- although, in fact, Palin repeated said she wasn't opposed to birth control, and had vetoed a probably-unconstitutional law restricting abortion.

It seems to be a general human failing to decide, and hen attend to those things that fit the decision, instead of seeing first and deciding later.
3.6.2009 8:05pm
Allan L. (mail):
What a dispiriting load of ignorant, narrow-minded, contemptible bloviating and name-calling. I guess it's more satisfying than owning up to the increasing likelihood that Bush and the Republicans have destroyed this country and the world's economy.
3.6.2009 8:49pm
Cornellian (mail):
Make no mistake...a major factor getting Obama elected was white guilt over slavery and the exhilaration they would feel over a black president.

I am an Asian-American and have no such guilt to cope with, and hence can call it as I see it.


I'm a descendant of pre-Civil War white Americans and I feel no such guilt. I'm responsible for my own actions, not the actions of my ancestors. I voted for Obama for reasons having nothing to do with race.
3.6.2009 9:15pm
Desiderius:
Obama isn't that radical, given the general anti-liberal (in the classical sense) drift of the cultural and intellectual elites the world over during the last twenty years, and thus of the masses who aspire to join them, or at least give their children that opportunity, whatever compromises that entails.

Obama is a classic conservative, seeking to emulate the greats of the past - Lincoln, FDR, Clinton (personnel-wise) rather than striking out in a novel direction. Just because those currently in power in our institutions tend to label themselves progressives to avoid confronting their own mortality (as their supporters in the rising generation do avoid confronting their own conformity and authority-worship), it does not therefore follow that actual progress is something they seek or even consider possible.

Rather there is a somewhat desperate clinging to the eternal verities and focus on demonizing heretics, embodied by the consistent comments here pointing out how unconservative self-described conservatives actually are and have been. This is entirely true, but arises from the fact that the actual conservatives (and reactionaries) have already taken the progressive and liberal labels.
3.6.2009 9:18pm
ChrisTS (mail):
MCM (mail): Did nobody read Brooks' new column today? ... Pretty dramatic reversal.

My first thought on reading this post was that no one here had paid attention to Brooks for about a year. He was so not an 'Obamacon' during the election; on the contrary, he just jumped all over the place on a more or less daily basis.
Watching him on The News Hour was painful: he realized the Bush years had been a disaster, but he wanted to note all the many good things Dubya achieved; he thought McCain was a decent guy, but he noted that McCain was not behaving decently; he thought Palin was a terrible and insulting veep choice, but he was not sure anyone should hold that against McCain. And on and on.
3.6.2009 9:45pm
LM (mail):
Joseph Slater:

I agree with Hattio that Frog Leg pegged this one early on.

Seconded. (Or thirded.)
3.6.2009 10:32pm
LM (mail):
Calderon:

Adjusting for inflation, the tax bracket at which the 90% rate kicked in for 1963 was over $2.7 million in annual income. From 1972 to 1981 the top rate for earned income (primarily salary and wage income) was 50%.

I see. And that's relevant because now the 90% (or 50%) rate kicks in where?
3.6.2009 10:35pm
LM (mail):
MartyA:

Liberal, radical, my Aunt Fannie! The guy is an empty suit, a nothing guy who wouldn't be employed ANYWHERE were he not black.
Why do you think that so much of his personal history from birth certificate, to medical record, to transcripts and thesis is censored? HE IS HIDING THINGS!

It's mighty thoughtful of you to contribute so generously to the Sarcastro project, but dial it down a little. It's not your job to provide the satire.
3.6.2009 10:45pm
Ilya Somin:
I don't think that this proves much about "the cluelessness" of the elite. Most of the elite did realize that Obama was a liberal. The Obamacons were unusual precisely because they - unlike most conservative and libertarian elites (and for that matter most liberal ones) didn't figure this out until very recently.
3.6.2009 10:50pm
Desiderius:
LM,

"Seconded. (Or thirded.)"

Dissent. Unless you can explain to me how the category "right" is relevant in this context.
3.6.2009 11:28pm
Cornellian (mail):
Buckley, Gergen and Brooks all attended expensive private universities, then spent their careers moving among the wealthy and powerful who inhabit the seaboard corridor running from Washington to Boston.

Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, . . ., or with Thomas Sowell.


Not that much of a contrast with Thomas Sowell (Harvard undergrad, Columbia masters, U Chicago PhD).

And if rich conservatives don't hold parties, that not the fault of liberals, rich or otherwise.

Admittedly Limbaugh is a dropout (from Southeast Missouri State). He's just the perfect Republican role model isn't he? I can see why the Democrats are gloating about how Republican office holders all have to grovel before him.
3.7.2009 12:03am
Hinton:
Brooks, Buckley, Gergen, these guys are paid to think, to analyse things. But they didn't do that. They ignored the policies and vote on class cues instead. Obama belongs to the same class as them, so like any voter they ignored the man's plans, and paid attention to the way that he speaks. Palin's accent was wrong, Palin's hobbies were wrong, Palin's taste was all wrong. It didn't matter that Palin was right on the issues. She wasn't one of them. She's declasse. She's uncool. It's like high school with them. Brooks, Buckley, Gergen, they just want to fit in.
3.7.2009 12:59am
Cornellian (mail):
Palin's accent was wrong, Palin's hobbies were wrong, Palin's taste was all wrong. It didn't matter that Palin was right on the issues. She wasn't one of them.

Republicans supported Palin for precisely the same reason. Despite it being painfully obvious she wasn't up to the job, they supported her anyway because they regarded her as one of them.
3.7.2009 1:05am
18-1 (mail):
Republicans supported Palin for precisely the same reason. Despite it being painfully obvious she wasn't up to the job, they supported her anyway because they regarded her as one of them.

After the last few weeks, it is pretty clear she was the most qualified for the job of the four people on the major party tickets.

One can certainly still argue not qualified enough, but considering the unmitigated disaster the Obama administration has already proven itself to be, that is a rather pedantic quibble.
3.7.2009 1:53am
Hinton:
Take Brooks, for example. He's employed by the Times, the Standard, PBS. His job is to think. But like everyone else, he votes on class cues. He's not doing his job.

Thomas Sowell's not afraid about not fitting in. But Thomas Sowell's the exception. Everyone else is a snob, or resentful of snobs.
3.7.2009 2:07am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sure. Palin was a worse prospect for Veep than Biden.
What a joke.
Nope. As Mark Steyn said, more or less, "NOK,D". Not Our Kind, Dear

Also, thinkers get a bit nervous when doers show up. And the intelligentsia are notable for doing very little.
3.7.2009 7:41am
Desiderius:
"And the intelligentsia are notable for doing very little."

If so, only recently. See: the 20th Century.
3.7.2009 8:21am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
charlie:

As the proprietor of the Palin Rumors list, I've noticed that there are several of the demonstrably false rumors that still appear every so often


How ironic. Your "Palin Rumors list" is a joke. It includes statements that are "demonstrably false," and which you've failed to correct even though this has been pointed out to you on multiple occasions (example, example, example).

==================
hinton:

Palin's accent was wrong, Palin's hobbies were wrong, Palin's taste was all wrong.


For some strange reason you seem to be trying to divert attention from her biggest problem: she's a liar (proof, proof).
3.7.2009 8:45am
Lucius Cornelius:
Some people have noted that the income tax rates prior to the Reagan era tax cuts were much higher than the 39.6% rate at the end of the Clinton presidency. However, there were also many deductions and tax avoidance planning techniques that were eliminated by the Reagan era tax changes.

So, while the tax rates during the Eisenhower years were much higher, taxpayers had a great many ways to avoid paying that rate. Most of those avoidance techniques are no longer available.
3.7.2009 9:08am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
cramer:

here's the September 11, 20003 New York Times article where the Bush Administration asked Congress to increase regulation on this, and the Democrats stopped it.


Yes, Bush made a proposal. And let's pay attention to what happened next (from the same article you cited):

After the hearing, Representative Michael G. Oxley, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, announced their intention to draft legislation based on the administration's proposal.


So far so good. And eventually the House passed a bill. Let's pay attention to what Oxley (R) said about what happened to that bill:

…the House passed a GSE reform bill in 2005 that could well have prevented the current crisis, says Mr Oxley, now vice-chairman of Nasdaq. He fumes about the criticism of his House colleagues. “All the handwringing and bedwetting is going on without remembering how the House stepped up on this,” he says. “What did we get from the White House? We got a one-finger salute.” The House bill, the 2005 Federal Housing Finance Reform Act, would have created a stronger regulator with new powers to increase capital at Fannie and Freddie, to limit their portfolios and to deal with the possibility of receivership.

Mr Oxley reached out to Barney Frank, then the ranking Democrat on the committee and now its chairman, to secure support on the other side of the aisle. But after winning bipartisan support in the House, where the bill passed by 331 to 90 votes, the legislation lacked a champion in the Senate and faced hostility from the Bush administration. Adamant that the only solution to the problems posed by Fannie and Freddie was their privatisation, the White House attacked the bill. Mr Greenspan also weighed in, saying that the House legislation was worse than no bill at all.

We missed a golden opportunity that would have avoided a lot of the problems we’re facing now, if we hadn’t had such a firm ideological position at the White House and the Treasury and the Fed,” Mr Oxley says.


Yes, so I guess "the Democrats stopped it" by exerting mind control over Bush, who ended up opposing the bill.

And they also exerted mind control over Republicans in Congress. The bill we're talking about is H.R. 1461: the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005. What eventually happened to that bill? It died in committee in 2005. Here was the "Last Action:"

Oct 31, 2005: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.


Can you remember back that far? At the time, the GOP controlled both houses of Congress, which means it controlled the House Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. And that's where the bill died: in that committee. Please explain how Democrats are responsible for the fact that the bill was killed by a GOP-controlled committee.

And here's why the bill died: conservatives opposed it:

H.R. 1461: A GSE "Reform" That Is Worse than Current Law - HR 1461--a bill that was supposed to create a “world class regulator”--is in fact a world class failure.  Not only does it fail to improve significantly upon the regulatory authority of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), but it actually increases the opportunities for Fannie and Freddie to exploit their subsidies in order to expand into other areas of residential finance. While the bill makes some modest improvements to the weak regulatory structure of OFHEO today, these improvements do not bring the authority of the new regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the level currently exercised by federal bank regulators. Moreover, the deficiencies of the bill so far outweigh its modest regulatory improvements that the taxpayers and the economy generally would be better off with current law. Under these circumstances, unless there is a reasonable chance that the bill can be strengthened on the House floor, in the Senate, or in conference, it does not deserve to proceed further in the legislative process.


Last time I checked, AEI was not controlled by Democrats. Why are you claiming the bill was blocked by Democrats?

Bush's half-hearted attempts to get this circus under control


They were something worse than "half-hearted." Bush said "the low-income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else." And he suggested that it's a good idea to give loans to people with "bad credit histories."

But of course I'm sure there was quite an outcry from the GOP when he made those statements. I just can't find it. Can you? And speaking of finding things, can you find examples of Democrats praising the GSEs for making loans to people with "bad credit histories?" I can't.

==============
calderon:

Adjusting for inflation, the tax bracket at which the 90% rate kicked in for 1963 was over $2.7 million in annual income. From 1972 to 1981 the top rate for earned income (primarily salary and wage income) was 50%.


$250K in today's dollars is the equivalent of about $32,000 in 1951. So what was the marginal rate for a couple showing income of $32,000 in 1951? Answer: 51% (pdf). A lot higher than what Obama is proposing for the same (inflation-adjusted) income level. So if Obama is a socialist, I guess Ike and JFK were uber-socialists.

So it's not just that the top rate was much higher back then. The other rates were higher, too.

==============
lucius:

while the tax rates during the Eisenhower years were much higher, taxpayers had a great many ways to avoid paying that rate


You're essentially making a statement about the effective tax rate. I can find figures for that going back to 1979. Can you find that data for "the Eisenhower years?" I can't.

By the way, there are still plenty of ways to dodge taxes. That's how we end up with a situation like this:

The 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in the year 2000, more than double their share just eight years earlier, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. But their tax burden plummeted over the period. … The rate actually paid by the top 400 in 2000 was about the same as that paid by a single person making $123,000 [link]
3.7.2009 9:22am
Calderon:
Recovery Law Grad said I certainly agree that comparing those rates to today's rates isn't apples-to-apples, as I alluded to in my parenthatical. But this supports my argument: what Obama is attempting do is nowhere near as radical as a 90% income tax on people making more than $2.7mm/year. Obama's plan cannot seriously be called "extremist" if it wasn't as aggressive as what we had during the wildly liberal 1950s. When your tax policy is to the right of Eisenhower, how can you be a radical communist?

Just because something was accepted at one time in past doesn't mean it can't be extremist now. (I'm sure we both can think of extreme examples like slavery, feudalism, monarchies, etc., but the princples applies to more sundry items as well) For example, if someone proposed marginal income tax rates of 90% on income of $2.5 million or higher now, I'd considered that "extremist" now since no other nation (including Denmark and Sweden) has income tax rates that are close to being that high. There's also a significant difference between increasing taxes on 5% of the population and .01% of the population (or whatever the number is that was making more than $2.7 million back in the fifties and sixties)

As far as what people say about Obama's "extremism" now, I'd generally agree it's overblown at the moment. A couple of examples of economic actions I plausibly think Obama might do in the future that I'd consider extreme would be (1) nationalizing banks and not privatizing them by the end of his term; (2) removing the FICA cap, so as to increase income taxes by 12.4% on all income over X dollars. Politicizing the census bureau seems problematic as well and a page from Chicago-style politics.
3.7.2009 11:07am
RPT (mail):
Can we at least agree that, with respect to the 2001-2006 period, Bush, Delay, Frist, Greenspan, Gramm, and the very well compensated (for their unique skills and achievements, of course) management of the various financial institutions bear no responsibility for our current predicament, and that history began with Obama's nomination in 2008? This will make our discussions so much easier going forward.
3.7.2009 11:35am
Calderon:
Jukeboxgrad said So it's not just that the top rate was much higher back then. The other rates were higher, too.

Indeed, all tax rates were higher back then. So Obama is proposing across-the-board tax increases at all income levels, right?

By the way, there are still plenty of ways to dodge taxes. That's how we end up with a situation like this:

Those dastardly rich people. Taking advantage of lower tax rates for qualified dividend and capital gains income written into the income tax code. They should be jailed for following the incentives provided by the law.
3.7.2009 12:06pm
PC:
So, while the tax rates during the Eisenhower years were much higher, taxpayers had a great many ways to avoid paying that rate. Most of those avoidance techniques are no longer available.

Now you can just bank with UBS.
3.7.2009 12:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So far, we don't tax wealth. We tax money as it moves.
People who have so much that they don't earn it, shift it, dividend it, don't move money.
Do we want a tax on wealth?
Just asking.

BTW. Saw a few moments of a C-Span piece of some writers discussing O. It was at a bookstore with the usual pony-tailed guys and granny-skirted women.
One writer said she'd googled O's speeches and found a phrase from Saul Bellow. "He read Saul Bellow!" He read Saul Bellow. Terrific. Better if he'd read Heinlein and Asimov.
Another writer mentioned the books John McCain and Sarah Palin had read, total, might be one or two, or perhaps he meant one or two from The Anointed One's list. But, given the kyukkyuk of knowing, superior, required in that context, laughter from those whose idea of productive activity is to visit a bookstore along with several dozen of those who think just like them. I was impressed, I can tell you.
Another writer was making a pretty good case the O didn't start becoming African American until he got interested in politics. He was interrupted by Susan Jacoby who segued to the wonderfulness of having read Saul Bellow.
Yeah. Fabulous advertisement for the superiority of the intelligentsia.
3.7.2009 12:42pm
byomtov (mail):
Make no mistake...a major factor getting Obama elected was white guilt over slavery and the exhilaration they would feel over a black president.

Right. Black candidates have always enjoyed a huge electoral advantage over their white opponents because of guilt over slavery. Just look at the diproportionate number of black governors and senators we've had in recent years. Why, it's positively overwhelming.

Where do you guys get this stuff? Do you think about it for even two seconds before you post it?
3.7.2009 12:53pm
PC:
Where do you guys get this stuff? Do you think about it for even two seconds before you post it?

It's part of their collective consciousness, aka Shitegeist.
3.7.2009 12:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
byomotov
Nobody said "always". Where do you get this crap?
More to the point, do you think nobody noticed?
Skip the de-caf, man.
3.7.2009 1:15pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
calderon:

Indeed, all tax rates were higher back then. So Obama is proposing across-the-board tax increases at all income levels, right?


I hope you convince the GOP to take the position that Obama should raise taxes on everyone, and not just on the rich.

Those dastardly rich people. … They should be jailed for following the incentives provided by the law.


Nice job with the straw man. That wasn't my point. I didn't suggest that anyone should pay more taxes than what's required by "the law." My point is that there's something wrong with "the law" when the 400 richest Americans pay the same rate as someone earning $123,000. And my point also is that there are still plenty of ways for the rich to dodge taxes (contrary to what lucius suggested).
3.7.2009 1:36pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Heinlein recognized that the only place "TANSTAAFL" applied was in a closed`system. Do conservatives today realize this, or are they too used to their own free lunches?
3.7.2009 2:09pm
Calderon:
jukeboxgrad said I hope you convince the GOP to take the position that Obama should raise taxes on everyone, and not just on the rich.

Works for me. If we're going to be raising taxes let's do it on everyone. We'll raise more revenue and have a better opportunity to pay off the deficit. Though since Obama and the Democrats control the presidency and Congress, how about you work on convincing them to do an across-the-board tax increase and I'll work on convincing 2 GOP senators.

Nice job with the straw man. That wasn't my point. I didn't suggest that anyone should pay more taxes than what's required by "the law." My point is that there's something wrong with "the law" when the 400 richest Americans pay the same rate as someone earning $123,000. And my point also is that there are still plenty of ways for the rich to dodge taxes (contrary to what lucius suggested).

Strange. I must have missed the part of your post where you argued that lower taxes on income from savings was a bad idea (which is the cause of the lower tax rates on the wealthy). But of course, your post doesn't say anything about higher taxes on savings and instead talks about ways to "dodge taxes." It's hard to understand how something can be a way to "dodge taxes" when it's explicitly provided and intended under the law.
3.7.2009 2:55pm
Desiderius:
Judging by this, someone is on the ball at the White House. A far cry from McClellanism.
3.7.2009 3:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
91
As a general rule, TAANSTAFL is true. Whether Harsh Mistress would "work", is another question.
Point is, some views of how people function are more useful than others. Bellow is a great novelist if you like great novelists telling you how things go in somebody's life, somebody who had to be made up.
Better read biography.
However, the point I was making was that a bunch of the intelligentsia look really, really faux-superior, and actually inadequate.
3.7.2009 3:56pm
Michael B (mail):
By what standards, Desiderius?

No one questions that the White House has been "on the ball" in political, ideological and rhetorical terms. That David Brooks finds a way to change his mind - with the barest of caveats and with the cosmetic note that what the WH offered was "sophisticated and fact-based" (which description itself relies upon taking this WH version of events and motives at face value, questioning none of it) - is not surprising in the least.

So yes, it's clear beyond any doubt whatsoever that the WH is "on the ball" in political, ideological and rhetorical terms. Beyond that, there is nothing of note that is clear, beyond the fact that Obama is clearly in over his head vis-a-vis Iran, in relation to Russia, as pertains to a series of foreign policy appointments (e.g., Samantha Power, Chas Freeman), relative to ideologues of note appointed in other areas (e.g., Browner, Holdren, Holder), as pertains to other areas as well.

But he does have that cadenced rhetoric down.

And he does have an action team ready to confront David Brooks and other perceived dissenters in the media who voice opinions that are "off message."

And you find that reassurring?
3.7.2009 4:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
Ilya: " Most of the elite did realize that Obama was a liberal. The Obamacons were unusual precisely because they - unlike most conservative and libertarian elites (and for that matter most liberal ones) didn't figure this out until very recently."

So you are saying that liberals didn't know that Obama was a liberal, but voted for him anyway? Doesn't make sense.

"unmitigated disaster" Strange, because Obama's approval ratings are in the high 60s. IF that's a disaster, what do you call W, who was in the low 30s?

michael B: "And he does have an action team ready to confront David Brooks and other perceived dissenters in the media who voice opinions that are "off message."

Unlike W, who of course never went after dissenters. And who always appointed very competent people, like Condi Rice, who could play Putin like a violin, or Bolton, who was so very effective in handling the UN, or, well, I could go on, but it's the results that matter -- Bush screwed up the war in Iraq and the US economy. If you want unmitigated disaster, save the phrase for his presidency.
3.7.2009 5:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
Well, of *course* you all find Obama a radical liberal! Did any expect you would find him to be a centrist? Or a moderate? In the right wing universe there are only two types of people -- normal, god-fearing patriotic, conservatives , and radical liberals. If you don't fit into 'one of us", then you are 'one of them.'

In this world, all taxes are evil always, all regulation of any kind is evil, and anything that doesn't fit into the Ozzie and Harriet viewpoint of the 1950s is untenable.

W lowered taxes, so that's good. His wars are good (and conversely, any wars started by a democrat such as Clinton are per se evil). The American people were so smart to outwit the liberal press and vote W into office twice, but they suddenly became stupid dupes and voted in Obama.

And so on. (yawn) It was all so predictable -- a conservative can do no wrong, a liberal no right. You guys lost, and you can't stand it. So all you have left is invective. Good thing the majority of Americans can see through all this smoke.
3.7.2009 6:13pm
Duracomm:

Interesting Video On Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac



This is a video from 2004 where Democrats seem to oppose and Republicans seem to favor stricter review and regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

for those who try to paint the other picture, the Democrats being those who fought for regulation against the GOP, it does change things a bit.

It’s all in their own words, so watch it for yourself
3.7.2009 8:15pm
Desiderius:
Michael B.,

All I'm saying is that evidently he has people there who can speak conservative (i.e. couching his policies in terms conservatives understand and targeting them to conservative concerns), whereas the Rovian strategy that relied on peeling off a certain percentage of Reagan democrats and/or moderate liberals eventually showed itself incapable of speaking liberal when necessary, or at least at giving liberals sufficient reason to keep listening.

Obama may eventually fall victim to the same dynamic - I suspect its sort of baked into the cake of our current political climate and will only lift when a clear challenger on the world stage emerges that necessitates moving beyond our present pettiness - but so far the response to Brooks beats anything the Bush White House managed after his first two years in office.

Randy,

You've got the game to move beyond the strawmen.
3.7.2009 8:22pm
Duracomm:
Randy R,

You could make a nice bonfire with all the strawmen you put together.

Well thought out, appropriate regulations have a place. You need to realize that the time after time unintended consequences of well meaning regulations have caused and continue to cause an immense amount of harm.

Regulations are often used by larger, better capitalized companies to drive there smaller competition out of business. Or as is the case with the compact fluorescent mandate and higher efficiency appliance mandates to take lower cost alternatives away from the consumers.


Regulatory Glamour--and Its Casualties

it is so hard to get conventional reporters to give a damn about the devastating effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act


It is putting one-person craft operations out of business, forcing thrift shops to sweep children's clothes and toys into the trash, and panicking apparel makers.

Even in the best economic circumstances, the cost of compliance would drive small, low-margin operations out of business. And these aren't the best economic circumstances.
3.7.2009 8:40pm
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Maybe I didn't read carefully enough, but I read Brooks' column as offering the Obama folks an opportunity to respond to others' accusations. I didn't read it as a reversal of his position. Nothing wrong with getting the other side's POV.
3.7.2009 9:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
'Well thought out, appropriate regulations have a place. You need to realize that the time after time unintended consequences of well meaning regulations have caused and continue to cause an immense amount of harm. '

Of course they do. However, there are some conservatives who are saying that our economic problems arise from too much regulation of the financial markets. Alan Greenspan, who was against regulation, has now come to realize that we should have had more.

In the past eight years, there were many voices on the right claiming that we should have fewer regulations of our food supply, because we can trust business to regulate itself. The result? Salmonella in peanut butter.

And if you can name one Democrat that the conservatives actually approve of, well, please be my guest. (Zell Miller doesn't count).
3.7.2009 11:43pm
Duracomm:
Randy R.

The Bush administration massively increased the amount of regulations while they were in office.

If you argue otherwise you simply have not been paying attention.

In fact there are reasonable arguments (remember our friend unintended consequences) that some of these regulations (the mark to market provisions of SOX) substantially increased the speed and severity of the current financial crisis.

A few thoughts before I re-enter the fray..

Another notion out there is that regulation has been lax during the Bush years. This is simply untrue.

... regulators have staffed up and been empowered over the last years in ways I have never seen in my 20 year career. In fact, in ways my colleagues with 40-50 years in the industry have never seen.

Compliance departments have staffed up to 3 or 4 times their prior levels to deal with the added regulatory inquiries, requirements and monitoring programs.
Please don't reply with the tiersome and discredited "if we only had the right people doing the regulations everything would be ok" mantra.

Putting effective regulations together is not easy. Massively increasing the size of the regulatory state makes that task much more difficult.
3.8.2009 10:17am
Duracomm:
More information on Bush's massive increase in the size of the regulatory state.


Obama's assertions to the contrary, the 43rd president was the biggest regulator since Nixon.

The Bush team has spent more taxpayer money on issuing and enforcing regulations than any previous administration in U.S. history.

Between fiscal year 2001 and fiscal year 2009, outlays on regulatory activities, adjusted for inflation, increased from $26.4 billion to an estimated $42.7 billion, or 62 percent. By contrast, President Clinton increased real spending on regulatory activities by 31 percent, from $20.1 billion in 1993 to $26.4 billion in 2001.
3.8.2009 10:27am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
calderon:

If we're going to be raising taxes let's do it on everyone. We'll raise more revenue


Sorry, but this is very confusing. I thought the GOP position is that when tax rates go up, revenue goes down. Are you saying this GOP claim is incorrect?

I must have missed the part of your post where you argued that lower taxes on income from savings was a bad idea


That's because I only implied it, instead of saying it explicitly. Now I'll say it explicitly: lower taxes on income from savings is a bad idea. And here's some evidence. Bush cut the capital gains tax rate. Now let's compare the Clinton years and the Bush years. Under Clinton, the Dow tripled. Under Bush, it dropped 25%. Clinton created record surpluses. Bush created record deficits. This isn't proof of causation, but it makes it hard to argue that taxing capital gains is going to wreck the economy.

It's hard to understand how something can be a way to "dodge taxes" when it's explicitly provided and intended under the law.


Poor people "dodge taxes" by simply breaking the law. But rich people are much too genteel to do it that way. Instead, they "dodge taxes" by making campaign contributions to people who then modify the tax code in a way that makes those contributions very worthwhile. Then these folks get together to congratulate each other (video). We have the best government money can buy.

===================
duracomm:

This is a video from 2004…


When you quote someone and omit words that are part of the original passage, it's customary to use an ellipsis. You chopped out the following words, without leaving any clue that you had done so:

This is not to say that the Democrats did not favor stricter review or that the Republicans are innocent from blame and I do blame both sides for the mess.


I guess this is your way of letting us know that text you paste in shouldn't be trusted.

You are also failing to address what I demonstrated here. The GSE reform bill was killed by the GOP.

You need to realize that the time after time unintended consequences of well meaning regulations have caused and continue to cause an immense amount of harm.


You need to realize that the time after time unintended consequences of (allegedly) well meaning deregulation has caused and continue to cause an immense amount of harm.

The Bush administration massively increased the amount of regulations while they were in office.


That's true, but your statements and citations ignore the importance of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Which led directly to Enron and to the massive abuse of credit default swaps. The real architect of this meltdown is Phil Gramm. And some of his key efforts were supported by Clinton. See here and here.

As someone did a nice job of explaining here, the key problem is not regulations that were removed, but the failure to impose appropriate regulations:

… today's regulatory structure is not designed or sufficient for today's financial markets. A modern regulatory structure would, for instance, impose capital/leveraging limits on issuers of complex derivatives, such as credit default swaps—just as commercial bankers and insurers are required to maintain sufficient reserves to cover losses. But that's illegal, thanks to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, snuck through by Phil Gramm during Clinton's waning days. That regulation specifically banned regulation of credit default swaps.


And the failure to regulate credit default swaps is a very important element in how we ended up where we are.
3.8.2009 12:07pm
Roger_Z (mail):
I don't believe Obama is a consistent leftist, or even a philosophical liberal. I think, like most successful politicians these days, he is a power-intoxicated pragmatist, where the goal is in essence to be perceived as popular so that he can maintain his hold on power.

What does he seek to do with this power? Not much, really. Push things vaguely in the direction where the people he thinks are most important (i.e. the ones whose opinion of himself he most values) will receive as much rent as possible without triggering a backlash that would make the rest of the voters withdraw their support. Those rent seekers are the real leftists in our society, but they are leading him, not visa versa.

This philosophical pragmatism actually makes him more dangerous today, since Americans would rebel against someone with a transparently left wing ideology. However, since the vast majority of the populace is unable to think conceptually, they are snowed by Obama's apparent reasonableness - he's just trying to figure out what will "work" to "fix" this enormously "complicated" situation. When these efforts fail, there will be a muddled blaming of left-of-center policies, but it will probably be after much long-term damage is done.

Of course, McCain shares many of these traits, with one exception (ok, two: he isn't nearly as charming): the perception of McCain is that he is vaguely rightist, so, as he lead us down the same path of further economic interventionism and foreign policy appeasement, the masses would have more reason to blame individualistic philosophy. We would be only slightly better off than we will be after Obama, but the cause of freedom would have suffered more in the long term.

This is why I held my nose and voted for Obama. I was actually hoping he _would_ be more of an honest liberal. But, I'll take what I can get (and lock in my fixed rate mortgage now, before the coming inflation spike).
3.8.2009 12:18pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The Bush administration massively increased the amount of regulations while they were in office."

Agreed Duracomm. So why didn't conservatives complain about those regulations? Probably for the same reason they didn't complain about the ballooning deficit he created -- because he was a Republican, and Republicans can do nothing wrong.

If Clinton or Obama had issued those exact same regulations, no doubt the rightwing-ephere would be howling, just as they are suddenly howling about the extensive powers the chief executive has, and the deficit spending.

Here's my point: Bill Clinton was actually pretty moderate, yet the right wing developed a cottage industry of hatred towards him. Then when Hillary looked like she was going to be the nominee, another industry cropped up to paint her as the next communist-in-chief. Ditto for Edwards and all the other Democratic nominees.

So regardless of who ever actually is in the White House, as long as they are Democrat, the right wingnuts will hate him/her, and demonize that person.

After all, they haven't any real ideas anymore, so name calling is all they have left. they've gone through socialist, now communist, soon fascist. What word will they use after fascist isn't enough?
3.8.2009 3:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
Roger Z: "What does he seek to do with this power? Not much, really."

Au contraire. As the Washington Post explained today, part of Obama's agenda is to spend money building high speed rail to connect important travel points.

Once a network of bullet trains is established, his power will be consolidated and complete,and that will enable him to usher in the final stage of world domination.
3.8.2009 3:51pm
Roger_Z (mail):
Sorry Randy, you remind me that I use the loaded term "power" without sufficient nuance. American political culture is merely obnoxious, not truly toxic. When I say politicians seek power, I mean really that it is only "being in power" that the seek. They will entertain themselves by toying with citizens' daily lives at the margins, being sure not to push too far and thereby incite a backlash. They are mostly just interested in having a relatively easy, high-paying job, which also makes people treat them with undue deference. There are exceptions, but noone that would have a hope of getting elected president.
3.8.2009 4:21pm
Michael B (mail):
Desiderius,

That's fair enough, as far as it goes in terms of political/rhetorical miles. But it doesn't take much to coopt someone like a David Brooks, or a C. Buckley, a Joe Scarborough, etc. In Brooks' rejoinder alone (his Thursday post, following his commentary from only two days previously) he refers to "facts" and "sophistication," but we're forced to take him at his word, which in turn is based upon him taking the administration's action team at their word.

Iow, yes, as far as it goes, which reflects as much depth and transparency as can be seen in a film of oil skimming on a pool of H²O. When the pundit and opinion class reflects as little transparency and depth as the political class, especially so given the current administration and what they've evidenced in more empirical terms, it's less than impressive.
3.8.2009 5:33pm
PC:
After all, they haven't any real ideas anymore, so name calling is all they have left. they've gone through socialist, now communist, soon fascist. What word will they use after fascist isn't enough?

Galactus?
3.8.2009 6:46pm
Duracomm:
Juke says,
And the failure to regulate credit default swaps is a very important element in how we ended up where we are.
Which provides excellent support to my statement
You need to realize that the time after time unintended consequences of well meaning regulations have caused and continue to cause an immense amount of harm.
Jukes comment nicely supports my point because regulations are what often drives the development of instruments like credit default swaps. Unintended regulatory consequences strike once again

That last one, substituting exposures, is important to heavily regulated investors.
What most of these people...don't appreciate is that regulation and/or accounting rules are the most fertile breeding ground for derivatives and synthetic or packaged securities.

Regulations and accounting rule-inspired transactions describe the bulk of the well known derivative-related blow-ups of the last two decades. Proscriptive regulation and the derivative trade have a symbiotic relationship.


..[Frank] Partnoy is a former derivatives salesperson, and he clearly suggests that regulation is often the derivative salesman's best friend.

Regulators have always had this perversely symbiotic relationship with Wall Street. And the same can be said for the ridiculously complicated federal taxation rules and increasingly byzantine Financial Accounting Standards, both of which have inspired massive derivative activity as the engineers find their way around the code maze.
3.8.2009 10:37pm
Alec Rawls (mail) (www):
Anyone who was revulsed by Sarah Palin is a moron. (I think that is civil. It doesn't apply to anyone here does it?)
3.8.2009 11:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Alec.
I think "revulsed" (neat word) is what the folks say when they really mean frightened.
She really had an executive job. She and her husband performed well in the private sector. She did a hell of a job against the old-boy establishment, more than most governors did.
Against which we had O and Biden. One whose closest approach to executive experience was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a complete failure, and Biden who's been known for decades as not being bright at all, and something of a loose cannon. He'd be dangerous except that nobody takes him seriously.
One who seemed most comfortable hanging with radicals and machine pols.
When it came to electability, Palin had to be Alinsky-ed. And she was.
Worked pretty well.
Those who did it already know decent people despise them, so there wasn't any further downside.
3.9.2009 8:28am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
duracomm:

regulations are what often drives the development of instruments like credit default swaps … ridiculously complicated federal taxation rules and increasingly byzantine Financial Accounting Standards … have inspired massive derivative activity as the engineers find their way around the code maze


This is pretty Orwellian. Yes, after regulations are written there are smart people who come along and figure out clever ways to get rich by circumventing the regulations (and never mind that this eventually leads to the kind of disaster we're now dealing with). But this doesn't mean that the proper solution is to get rid of regulations. The proper solution is to figure out how to make them simple and effective. That task is difficult, but it's also possible and necessary.
3.9.2009 10:28am
Calderon:
Jukeboxgrad said Bush cut the capital gains tax rate. Now let's compare the Clinton years and the Bush years. Under Clinton, the Dow tripled. Under Bush, it dropped 25%. Clinton created record surpluses. Bush created record deficits.

Unfortunately I don't have time to respond to your entire post (guess I'll need to go full John Galt at some point) but wanted to flag this. Clinton &Congress (odd how many people always omit the legislature) passed a large capital gains tax cut in 1997, which you fail to point out.
3.9.2009 11:12am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
a large capital gains tax cut in 1997


At the start of the Clinton years, the maximum capital gains tax was 28% (pdf). In 1997, it became 20%. In 2003, it became 15%. So Clinton cut the rate, but then Bush cut it again.

During Clinton's first term, when the 28% rate was in effect, the Dow more than doubled. Which makes it hard to argue that a rate that high will kill the Dow or the economy. Especially when you notice that in Bush's first term the Dow was flat, and in his second term it dropped by 25%. Even though the rate was much lower (20% and then 15%).
3.9.2009 12:16pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't know, given current circumstances, that it's good practice to so easily connect the president, whoever he is or was, and his actions to the Dow.

One blogger noted that the media loved Carter and hated Reagan, while Wall Street disliked Carter and liked Reagan. The media were wrong both times and Wall Street was right. Today, the media like O and Wall Street doesn't.
Just sayin'.
3.9.2009 12:28pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

And they (Democrats) also exerted mind control over Republicans in Congress. The bill we're talking about is H.R. 1461: the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005. What eventually happened to that bill? It died in committee in 2005. Here was the "Last Action:"

Oct 31, 2005: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.


Can you remember back that far? At the time, the GOP controlled both houses of Congress, which means it controlled the House Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. And that's where the bill died: in that committee. Please explain how Democrats are responsible for the fact that the bill was killed by a GOP-controlled committee.

And here's why the bill died: conservatives opposed it:

H.R. 1461: A GSE "Reform" That Is Worse than Current Law - HR 1461--a bill that was supposed to create a “world class regulator”--is in fact a world class failure. Not only does it fail to improve significantly upon the regulatory authority of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), but it actually increases the opportunities for Fannie and Freddie to exploit their subsidies in order to expand into other areas of residential finance. While the bill makes some modest improvements to the weak regulatory structure of OFHEO today, these improvements do not bring the authority of the new regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the level currently exercised by federal bank regulators. Moreover, the deficiencies of the bill so far outweigh its modest regulatory improvements that the taxpayers and the economy generally would be better off with current law. Under these circumstances, unless there is a reasonable chance that the bill can be strengthened on the House floor, in the Senate, or in conference, it does not deserve to proceed further in the legislative process.


Last time I checked, AEI was not controlled by Democrats. Why are you claiming the bill was blocked by Democrats?

"They were something worse than "half-hearted." [efforts by Bush to control problem.] Bush said "the low-income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else." And he suggested that it's a good idea to give loans to people with "bad credit histories."


First, let's refer to a statement by President Bush on H.R. 1461 and why he opposed the bill. Bush was pretty clear why he opposed what had become of H.R. 1461 when his administration issued a Statement of Policy on 10/26/05 which included the following statements:

"H.R. 1461 fails to include key elements that are essential to protect the safety and soundness of the housing finance system and the broader financial system at large. As a result, the Administration opposes the bill."

and:

The dramatic growth of the housing GSEs over the last decade, as well as recent accounting and operational problems, underscore the importance of protecting the broader financial markets from systemic risks caused by their actions. The housing GSEs' outstanding debt is approximately $2.5 trillion, and they provide credit guarantees on another $2.4 trillion of mortgages. By comparison, the privately held debt of the Federal government is $4.1 trillion. Housing GSE debt is issued largely to support sizable portfolio investments that are unnecessary to fulfill the GSEs' housing mission. Given the size and importance of the GSEs, Congress must ensure that their large mortgage portfolios do not place the U.S. financial system at risk. H.R. 1461 fails to provide critical policy guidance in this area."

The Statement of Policy also stated:

"The Administration strongly believes that the housing GSEs should be focused on their core housing mission, particularly with respect to low-income Americans and first-time homebuyers. Instead, provisions of H.R. 1461 that expand mortgage purchasing authority would lessen the housing GSEs' commitment to low-income homebuyers. Likewise, provisions that divert profits will lead to increased risk-taking and decreased market discipline, while exacerbating systemic risk.

The Administration remains committed to bringing real reform to the housing GSEs and looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to ensure that the needed reforms are part of any final legislation."


From what I can find, the problem was that H.R. 1461 never had the requisite changes that Bush wanted to see. For more on that, there's an excellent chronology on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with information on H.R. 1461 provided by the Wall Street Journal. Although House Editorials, there's plenty of information that can be gleaned that provides illumination on H.R. 1461 and how inadequate some believed it was. First, see what the WSJ had to say on 05/09/05 about Congressman Oxley's legislation. Here is what was written in regards to MBSs held by Fannie and Freddie:

"The sensible policy response is to wind down their portfolio of MBSs. As Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has testified, repurchased MBSs do little or nothing to fulfill the companies' Congressional mandate to promote housing. Apart from a small amount needed for liquidity, they merely pad Fannie's private profit while increasing the public risk to taxpayers if something goes awry. Mr. Greenspan and Treasury Secretary John Snow have thus recommended that the portfolio of MBSs be limited via law or Congressional policy guidance."

and specifically on objections to H.R. 1461:

"Enter Mr. Oxley, who wants to toss the MBS question to the new regulator that Congress is creating to monitor Fan and Fred. That regulator in turn would be able to pare back the MBS portfolios only if they posed a threat to safety and soundness. By the time any regulator came to that conclusion, of course, a crisis would be well under way -- or such a judgment might trigger one. This means there are effectively no MBS portfolio limits in the Oxley bill."


In another House Editorial on 10/25/05, the WSJ writes about H.R. 1461 which was reported out of the House Committee on Financial Services by a vote of 65-5:

"In the event of a more serious misstep, Uncle Sam would be on the hook for some or all of the liabilities of these two federal nephews. This implicit taxpayer backing is the reason Fannie and Freddie can borrow at bargain-basement prices in the first place, and it is one of the reasons that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has argued that Fan and Fred pose a "systemic risk" to financial markets."

"Chairman Oxley seems oblivious to all this, focusing instead on raising PAC contributions and showing he can pass a bill by giving Mr. Frank whatever he wants. His bill does nothing to empower Fannie and Fred's regulator to reduce the size of their $1 trillion-plus portfolios of mortgage-backed securities, which pose this systemic risk."

There were attempts to have to have the regulator proposed in the Oxley bill have more abilities to reduce risk. The WSJ also stated in their 10/25/05 Editorial:

"His (Oxley's) bill does nothing to empower Fannie and Fred's regulator to reduce the size of their $1 trillion-plus portfolios of mortgage-backed securities, which pose this systemic risk.

Senator Richard Shelby's Banking Committee has passed a bill that would give the new regulator this power. But if the Oxley bill passes in its present form, that power will be stripped out of the Senate bill in conference. So Congressman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) has proposed an amendment to the Oxley bill -- to be considered by the House Rules Committee today -- that would insert a single line into the 238-page bill allowing the new regulator to weigh systemic risk when evaluating the safety and soundness of Fan and Fred activities."

From what I can find, Royce's amendment was not approved.

Clearly, there was concern from some quarters that H.R. 1461 was not going to be able to provide the ability to reduce risks to public funds and economic stability when GSEs hold such a large quantity of Mortgage Backed Securities.


But of course I'm sure there was quite an outcry from the GOP when he made those statements. I just can't find it. Can you? And speaking of finding things, can you find examples of Democrats praising the GSEs for making loans to people with "bad credit histories?" I can't.

Not concerning bad credit histories, as far as I can find. But there was a effort that went back as least as far as the Clinton Administration that espoused finding different ways to get people in homes, even if they did not have the income to make the monthly payment. The National Homeownership Strategy: Partners in the American Dream released in 1995, had the following paragraph:

"For many potential homebuyers, the lack of cash available to accumulate the required downpayment and closing costs is the major impediment to purchasing a home. Other households do not have sufficient available income to to make the monthly payments on mortgages financed at market interest rates for standard loan terms. Financing strategies, fueled by the creativity and resources of the private and public sectors, should address both of these financial barriers to homeownership."


At the very least, there was a recognition of the need for the "creativity and resources" that would be needed in the case of households who did not have sufficient income to make the monthly payments on mortgages. What would seem to be a necessary prudent step - make sure potential homeowners have enough income to make the monthly payments, was in effect minimized as something the public and private sectors could address. And apparently they did, in their own unique way.

Not researched is how much in campaign contributions the key players for H.R. 1461 received. That would be interesting.

Democrat and Republican House members both were responsible for crafting H.R. 1461 such that it would not provide reforms that the Bush Administration felt were needed to reduce the risk of GSEs holding Mortgage Based Securities. It was roughly the same in the Senate. From what I can gather President Bush concluded that a bad bill was worse than keeping things the same. This certainly does not make excuse Bush's statements concerning minimizing the credit worthiness of potential homeowners.
3.9.2009 1:05pm
Michael B (mail):
Clinton's entire presidency took place immediately after the end of the Cold War and immediately before 9/11, so Clinton's was an insulated presidency in that sense. That general consideration (also, the "peace dividend," WTC '93 one month into the presidency, the African embassies and Khobar Towers, the burgeoning tech stock and real estate bubbles) serves to invoke some reality-based contexts that could fill multiplied volumes and that certainly serve to rebuff any more purely abstracted analyses.
3.9.2009 1:08pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
aubrey:

I don't know, given current circumstances, that it's good practice to so easily connect the president, whoever he is or was, and his actions to the Dow.


How ironic, since the GOP (and you) is bending over backwards to connect Obama with the Dow. Even though that comparison looks bad for the GOP when you do the same thing with Clinton and Bush.

It's also likely this comparison will end up looking bad for the GOP when you do the comparison with Bush and Obama. If the Dow is above 6,000 on 1/20/17 (which is when Obama leaves office, assuming he wins a second term), he will have exceeded Bush's performance. Why? Because the Dow dropped 25% during Bush's term.

================
fury:

Democrat and Republican House members both were responsible for crafting H.R. 1461 such that it would not provide reforms that the Bush Administration felt were needed


Both houses of Congress were in the hands of the GOP when 1461 died. So if there was something wrong with 1461, most of the blame for that belongs to the GOP.

================
michael:

Clinton's entire presidency took place immediately after the end of the Cold War…


Yes, Clinton inherited the end of the Cold War. And what Bush inherited from Clinton were record surpluses, which Bush managed to turn into record deficits. And what Obama has inherited from Bush are two unfinished wars, and the biggest financial crisis in about eighty years. If you want to include context, then try to be a little less selective about what you include.
3.9.2009 1:36pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

Both houses of Congress were in the hands of the GOP when 1461 died. So if there was something wrong with 1461, most of the blame for that belongs to the GOP.

That's a reasonable statement for sure. I hope my comments did not convey that Repubs were without blame, as they have much to do with what went wrong.
3.9.2009 6:23pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I hope my comments did not convey that Repubs were without blame


No, they didn't. And I hope my further comment did not convey that you were conveying that! But sorry if it did.
3.9.2009 6:29pm
Calderon:
Jukeboxgrad said At the start of the Clinton years, the maximum capital gains tax was 28% (pdf). In 1997, it became 20%. In 2003, it became 15%. So Clinton cut the rate, but then Bush cut it again.

Correct, so Clinton sharply cut the capital gains tax rate, and the stock market indices rose dramatically afterwards. (As explained below, I'm not claiming causation here)

During Clinton's first term, when the 28% rate was in effect, the Dow more than doubled. Which makes it hard to argue that a rate that high will kill the Dow or the economy. Especially when you notice that in Bush's first term the Dow was flat, and in his second term it dropped by 25%. Even though the rate was much lower (20% and then 15%).

Sure, and the stock market and economy were poor after George Bush I raised taxes, so raising taxes is bad. For that matter, I think the real key was when Reagan passed the flat/regressive Social Security Reform Act of 1983. After that passed, GDP increased, and so clearly the course of action we should follow is an increase in the payroll or other flat/regressive taxes.

More seriously, without having at least a multiple regression (thought those are subject to their own problems) or some other kind of statistical analysis that can separate out trends, all the Googling in the world isn't going to support any thing. Trying to claim two gross examples as "evidence" of low taxes on savings being bad is post hoc ergo propter hoc at its worst.
3.9.2009 9:39pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
calderon:

Clinton sharply cut the capital gains tax rate, and the stock market indices rose dramatically afterwards


"Dramatically" is relative. During Clinton's first term, when the maximum capital gains tax rate was 28%, the Dow grew 111%. During Clinton's second term, when the maximum capital gains tax rate was 20%, the Dow grew 55%. During Bush's first term, when the rate was 20% and then 15%, the Dow was flat. During Bush's second term, when the rate was 15%, the Dow dropped 25%.

I'm not claiming that a 28% rate guarantees that the Dow will go up. I'm claiming that this history tends to indicate that a high capital gains tax will not necessarily wreck the Dow. Which is a helpful thing to know, since the GOP mantra seems to be that any taxes above current rates are the work of socialist devils who are scheming to end the world.

post hoc ergo propter hoc at its worst


If you are sensitive about "post hoc ergo propter hoc" I hope you will direct some of that sensitivity to the many people who are claiming that the Dow is down because Obama was elected (or that he is in some way responsible for the current Dow). Even though the market started dropping over a year ago. It declined 43% in the last 15 months of Bush's term.
3.9.2009 10:26pm
Michael B (mail):
Clinton's entire presidency took place immediately after the end of the Cold War and immediately before 9/11, so Clinton's was an insulated presidency in that sense. That general consideration (also, the "peace dividend," WTC '93 one month into the presidency, the African embassies and Khobar Towers, the burgeoning tech stock and real estate bubbles) serves to invoke some reality-based contexts that could fill multiplied volumes and that certainly serve to rebuff any more purely abstracted analyses.

And to that, you respond with what everyone knows, concerning the DOW?

As to Obama, he has effectively established a sneerocracy, deflecting and refracting any coherent criticisms into the void and morass of media fuckheads and apparatchiks such as Chris Matthews, Olberman, et al., enforcers and PR types. All those links are simple images, reflecting the fact that Obama himself is an image and a facade, reflected both on the foreign policy front and the domestic front.
3.10.2009 1:24am
Desiderius:
JBG,

"But this doesn't mean that the proper solution is to get rid of regulations. The proper solution is to figure out how to make them simple and effective. That task is difficult, but it's also possible and necessary."

(a) Good luck with that.

(b) Good luck with that, for real. I think you're entirely correct here.
3.10.2009 7:01am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michael:

And to that, you respond with what everyone knows, concerning the DOW?


Wrong. I didn't respond to "that …with what everyone knows, concerning the DOW." In my response to you, which is the third part of my comment here, I said this much about the "DOW:" nothing whatsoever. My comments about the Dow were addressed to others, not you.

Why are you making things up? Oh, I forgot. It's what you do. That's a good example of something "everyone knows."

By the way, do you really think "everyone knows" that under Clinton the Dow tripled, and under Bush, it dropped 25%? I doubt it. And if it's true that "everyone knows," then the many Republicans who are in a hurry to tie the current president to the Dow are even more shameless than I thought.
3.10.2009 8:34am
Michael B (mail):
jukeboxsneer_and_metasneer,

Your repeated attempts at traducements aside once again, the following:

You're making things up. I didn't suggest people generally know specific figures, I did suggest people generally know of the surpluses that resulted during Clinton's eight years and the rise in the Dow. That is what I alluded to.

Which is why I briefly listed the factors, the general context, I did: that Clinton's entire presidency took place immediately after the end of the Cold War and immediately before 9/11 and further, that that fact serves to invoke an entire set of reality-based contexts that additionally serve to rebuff any purely abstracted analyses.
3.10.2009 3:41pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
You're making things up.


Really? Let's review. You said this:

Clinton's entire presidency took place immediately after the end of the Cold War and immediately before 9/11, so Clinton's was an insulated presidency in that sense. That general consideration (also, the "peace dividend," WTC '93 one month into the presidency, the African embassies and Khobar Towers, the burgeoning tech stock and real estate bubbles) serves to invoke some reality-based contexts that could fill multiplied volumes and that certainly serve to rebuff any more purely abstracted analyses.


I responded to you as follows:

Yes, Clinton inherited the end of the Cold War. And what Bush inherited from Clinton were record surpluses, which Bush managed to turn into record deficits. And what Obama has inherited from Bush are two unfinished wars, and the biggest financial crisis in about eighty years. If you want to include context, then try to be a little less selective about what you include.


And then you said this:

…to that ["Clinton's entire presidency…"], you respond with what everyone knows, concerning the DOW?


In other words, you claimed that I responded to you by saying something about the Dow. Trouble is, my response to you said this much about the Dow: nothing whatsoever. You simply made that up. Because making things up is what you do.

And you just did some more of that. You just said this:

I didn't suggest people generally know specific figures, I did suggest people generally know of the surpluses that resulted during Clinton's eight years and the rise in the Dow.


Instead of taking responsibility for misstating what I said, you're now trying to cover your tracks by misstating what you said. You did not "suggest people generally know of the surpluses that resulted during Clinton's eight years." Your statement about what "everyone knows" made no reference to "the surpluses that resulted during Clinton's eight years." It only made reference to "the DOW."

So after pretending that I said something I didn't say, you're now pretending that you said something you didn't say. Keep up the good work!

What's especially important about this is not whether or not I mentioned the Dow (in my response to you). What's especially important about this is your failure to pay attention to what's actually been said, not just by others but even by you. And what's even more important than your failure to pay attention is your failure to take responsibility when it's pointed out that you've been failing to pay attention.
3.11.2009 8:18am
Michael B (mail):
jukeboxsneer_and_metasneer,

Wrong - entirely (and trivially, btw) wrong. You're attaching meaning to what was said in a manner that was never intended. You're own failure thus is hi-lighted in the fact of your nosepick presumption and insouciance.

Thanks for the continued laughs and bemusement though, a jukebox_sneer staple.

What an obstreperous solipsist and clown.
3.11.2009 8:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
You're attaching meaning to what was said in a manner that was never intended.


I'm not "attaching meaning to what was said." I'm simply paying attention to "what was said." And if there's a gap between what you intended and what you said, then it's up to you to take responsibility for that gap. Maybe someday you will. Maybe it will be the same day you address your chronic problem with making false statements.

But in the meantime, what you said (about what I said and about what you said) is false. Gratuitous insults and a grandiose vocabulary do not hide this, but they do a nice job of reminding us that you have nothing else to work with.

You're own failure thus


If what you intended and what you said are not the same thing, then that's not my "failure." It's yours.
3.12.2009 8:09am

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