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Liberal Outrage


I'm not kidding:

"The time for putting party first is over," [Obama] wrote. "If you want to see a bipartisan #compromise, let Congress know. Call. Email. Tweet."

We also learned the following today:

First quarter GDP revised downward to a 0.4 percent growth rate. Second quarter GDP grew at a lower-than-expected 1.3 percent.


Revised government data released this morning shows the recession was significantly worse than previously thought. Instead of shrinking by 2.5 percent in 2009, the economy actually shrank by 3.5 percent.

Maybe now's not the best time to tweet our representatives with the request that they cut government spending?

Update: As Krugman says:

It's really hard to talk about this without getting into armchair psychoanalysis. I'll try to refrain. But let's just say that Obama's continuing insistence on compromising, his continuing faith in bipartisanship despite two and a half years of evidence that these people don't do compromise and will never make a deal, is looking obsessive and compulsive. It's deeply frustrating.

By fnord12 | July 29, 2011, 3:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link

They really are being serious

I know it sounds insane, but Brad Delong, Matthew Yglesias, and Yale constitutional scholar Jack Balkin all think that Obama can continue to pay the bills by minting gigantic platinum coins.

Look, this may be crazy, but it's right there in the constitution. And when you have this nonsensical debt ceiling law (to authorize payments for spending you already authorized in the budget bill) and opponents who are not willing to compromise, you need to be able to show that you've got an alternative so you're negotiating from a position of strength.

By fnord12 | July 29, 2011, 10:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link


I'm not a regular reader of alicublog (it's usually more snark than info), but there is so much gold in these two posts i may have to start.

By fnord12 | July 28, 2011, 10:40 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Another Reason to Hurry the Hell Up

And get that earthship with the super huge windmill and greenhouse cause when the sun wakes up, we're gonna be in trouble.

The sun has been quiet for years, at the nadir of its activity cycle. But since February, our star has been spitting out flares and plasma like an angry dragon.
Sept. 1 of that year saw the largest solar flare on record, witnessed by British astronomer Richard Carrington...Within hours, telegraph operators found out. Their long strands of wire acted as antennas for this huge wave of solar energy. As this tsunami sped by, transmitters heated up, and several burst into flames.
Such a "Carrington event" will happen again someday, but our wired civilization will suffer losses far greater than a few telegraph shacks.

Communications satellites will be knocked offline. Financial transactions, timed and transmitted via those satellite, will fail, causing millions or billions in losses. The GPS system will go wonky. Astronauts on the space station will huddle in a shielded module, as they have done three times in the past decade due to "space weather," the scientific term for all of the sun's freaky activity. Flights between North America and Asia, over the North Pole, will have to be rerouted, as they were in April during a weak solar storm at a cost to the airlines of $100,000 a flight. And oil pipelines, particularly in Alaska and Canada, will suffer corrosion as they, like power lines, conduct electricity from the solar storm.

But the biggest impact will be on the modern marvel known as the power grid. And experts warn that the grid is not ready. In 2008, the National Academy of Sciences stated that an 1859-level storm could knock out power in parts of the northeastern and northwestern United States for months, even years. Report co-author John Kappenmann estimated that about 135 million Americans would be forced to revert to a pre-electric lifestyle or relocate. Water systems would fail. Food would spoil. Thousands could die.

The solar activity is expected to peak between 2013 and 2014. Whether or not a solar storm of this magnitude will occur during this cycle is unknown. Hopefully not, since, as usual, we're not ready. The president of the North American Electric Reliability Corp (who came up with this name? it's terrible) is already downplaying the the severity of the threat, saying "the idea of 130 million people out of power for 10 years is an overstatement."

Ok, but how about being out of power for 5 years? Or 1 year? You know how much we whine when we have a power outage that last hours? You think we can deal with years, let alone days? It's summer right now, so picture not having any a/c (unless you're me, this is prolly a horrifying prospect).

Also, water systems would fail - no clean water. I might not need air conditioning, but by god, i NEED clean water.

So...let's go.

By min | July 28, 2011, 8:29 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Wall Street not worried?

Now that i've gotten my rant out of the way (and no, i don't feel better), here is an interesting observation:

Predicting where the market is heading is a daft exercise. But its nonchalance suggests that investors are no more worried about the possibility of a U.S. default now than they were on Friday. The consensus seems to be that the debt-ceiling crisis is an obnoxious piece of political theater that will end as close to the default deadline as possible, and that it is not an actual financial crisis that needs handling now.

Indeed, the current "crisis" is a manufactured one. Of course the United States needs to get its fiscal house in order. Of course the debt has ballooned to threatening levels. But the problem remains long-term and mostly about ensuring job growth and bending down the health care cost curve. Still, it is not clear what the scale of the catastrophe could be should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling. Some investment banks speculate that the market reaction might not be as bad as people think, with government going into a very short-lived shutdown, voter anger forcing Congress to get its act together, and the market rolling its eyes even if it dumps some bonds.

Not that i think we should legislate based on how the stock market reacts, but this goes along with what Krugman said: better to default and see what happens than cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

By fnord12 | July 26, 2011, 11:41 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Worst president ever?

James Buchanan literally had the country fall apart during his term of office. George W. Bush had September 11th, Katrina, at least one war under phoney pretenses, and the greatest economic collapse this side of the Great Depression. For that matter, Hoover had the Great Depression.

So maybe i'm being hyperbolic. But how did we get to the point where our choices are either more economic collapse or cutting our social safety programs?

The average duration of unemployment today is nine months and employers are not hiring people with gaps in their employment records. Those people are without insurance. Many are hanging on the best they can until they can go on Medicare. Many are on Medicaid. And Obama wants to raise the Medicare age to compromise with Republicans on what should be a routine vote? Cut Medicaid? Cut social security (which isn't even a factor in the debt debate)?

And let's remember that whether Obama "wins" or "loses", those unemployed people aren't being helped. This is entirely the wrong issue to be discussing right now. Obama hasn't made that point. He's still talking about "when times are tough, families tighten their belts, and the government needs to do the same" which is exactly wrong.

Obama is now urging voters to contact their congresspeople and demand that we make this grand compromise. No thanks! But where was this call to arms for a larger stimulus package that would have reduced unemployment? For a public option that would have reduced medical costs - which is the main cause of our long term debt?

Krugman says we've got a known danger and an unknown danger and we might as well go with the unknown. There's also the theory that the entire debt ceiling law is unconstitutional and the Treasury can just continue paying its bills regardless. So a smart or clever or brave president still has options, and therefore bargaining power. But Obama keeps going to the Republicans with "here's everything you want", which just encourages them to ask for even more. So we're screwed.

Let me be clear*: The Republicans are obviously the ones who are causing this mess. But Republican opposition should have been anticipated months and years ago. Instead it's been endless attempts at a compromise, on every issue, and that's entirely Obama's fault. It's a failure of leadership.

Update: Yglesias takes issue with people blaming the president. Says blame congress instead. And i do blame all the Democrats for being cowards and chumps. But Obama is the leader of the party. It's his cautious strategy that informs Congressional Dems' tactics.


By fnord12 | July 26, 2011, 10:40 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

And a reminder

The Democrats stupidly agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts in 2010 (with no agreement that the Republicans would in turn extend the debt ceiling; here's Tom Tomorrow on that).

If the Democrats want to increase revenue, they have to do nothing and let the tax cut extension expire in 2012. They don't have to make a deal with the Republicans, unless you really think Wall Street will let the US Government default on its loans.

By fnord12 | July 22, 2011, 12:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Plenty of money to be found in tax reform

Often hear liberals say that they don't want to raise taxes, they just want to reform the tax system. It always sounded like weaselly nonsense to me, but Ezra Klein explains:

  • $500 billion to people to buy houses that they would buy anyway.
  • $400 billion to reward people for making money by investing and earning capital gains and dividends rather than by going to work and taking their income in wages
  • $20 billion to employers who subsidize their workers' transportation costs
  • $200 billion to people who make charitable deductions
  • $700 billion to employers who offer health insurance to their employees
Midway through my excavation, however, when I was really just getting warmed up, I realized I had made a mistake. I wasn't looking at the federal budget -- I was looking at the U.S. tax code. So cutting all those costly programs wouldn't count as cutting spending to Republicans in Washington. It would count as raising taxes.

Also, if you like Ezra Klein to explain things to you, here's the debt ceiling issue explained in a one post, including its history. One thing he doesn't mention that i think is worth repeating is that the debt ceiling was raised 7 times during the Bush II administration.

By fnord12 | July 22, 2011, 12:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

I, for one, welcome our new Ruritanian overlords. I bet they could at least pass a clean debt ceiling bill.

Paul Krugman gets creative:

Suppose that Obama announces that we face a clear and present danger from Ruritania, and that to meet that threat we need immediate investment in roads and rail (to move troops, of course). The economy surges on the emergency spending -- and newly employed men and women at last get to move out of their relatives' basements. Home construction surges.

Then Obama apologizes, says that his advisers have learned that there is no such country as Ruritania, and cancels the program. But we still have the new roads and rail links; plus, the surge in housing demand is now self-sustaining, and the economy remains strong.

Of course, we could do all this without the Ruritanian threat; but we won't.

By fnord12 | July 21, 2011, 11:22 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Underprivileged Senators will join gangs if we cut after-school programs

When i see headlines like "Obama Embraces 'Gang of Six' Deficit Plan", i wonder if the people who dub these Gangs of Six and Gangs of Twelve and what have you realize that the original Gang of Four were a group of Chinese communists who are blamed for the worst parts of the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently arrested after a failed coup attempt (they later went on to form a kick-ass post-punk band, so it wasn't all bad).

When i look at what these US gangs do, it's probably not a bad comparison. The "Gang of Twelve" ensured that Bush's right-wing judges got approved. The "Gang of Six" is ensuring that the Erskine/Bowles Debt Commission plan is enacted along with the debt ceiling vote. There was another "Gang" (i forget how many) that ensured that Obama's healthcare bill would suck. But these gangs are generally discussed with approval in the media so i think it's funny that they're named after a group that was originally part of the mainstream power structure that eventually got branded as traitors and arrested. Can't wait.

By fnord12 | July 20, 2011, 7:32 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

No Elizabeth Warren

NYTimes via Krugman:

President Obama said Sunday that he would nominate Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, passing over Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who was the driving force behind the agency's creation.

Krugman nots that Cordray has no better shot of getting past the Republican filibuster than Warren did, and then says:

What's going to happen, then, is no director for the CFPB in any case. But meanwhile Obama has passed up a chance to symbolically align himself with the public and against the banksters.

By fnord12 | July 18, 2011, 10:45 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Oh, No He Didn't

In this article about "self-organising networks", I came across this wonderful line:

[Tansley] publicly accused Smuts of what he called "the abuse of vegetational concepts" - which at the time was considered very rude.


By min | July 1, 2011, 1:39 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Comments (1)| Link

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