Unilateral Disarmament Has Destroyed the Democrats

President Obama spent the first two years of his administration practicing political unilateral disarmament. He laid down his arms to reach out to Republicans, and they ripped his arms off and clubbed him over the head with them.

This idea of playing patty-cakes with the Republicans is enormously naïve. When is this administration going to get it through their thick skulls that they will never work with you?!

Now, if attempts at bipartisanship had no downside, then of course I'd be in favor of it. As a theoretical matter, trying to reach out to the other side and reach consensus sounds lovely. But it does have a downside. You don't get to make your own case as you're playing nice with the other side. They're hammering you day in and day out, and you keep your powder dry. You know what that ends up in -- a massacre.

And that's exactly where we are now as the Democrats are looking to get slaughtered in 2010. Gallup says the Republicans have a historically large 10-point lead in generic Congressional matchups. The president has gone from a 68% approval rating to the low 40's. He's lost nearly 25% of the country in his approval rating. That's a disaster.

So, the president has fallen and he can't get up. But more importantly, he can't figure out why he fell. It's because you let the Republicans push you down and you never even fought back. You only have two months left -- take the f'in gloves off, Queensberry.

Here are how many people you will convince if you don't argue your side of the argument -- absolutely zero. Is the president aware that the Republicans are in the opposition party?

Now, it's almost too late for this election. Partly because it's hard to make that turn at this late juncture and because this is something you should have been doing all along so it's already in people's heads. But much more importantly, this isn't about how you campaign; this is about how you govern. He needs to govern with an agenda of change -- remember, that's what he originally campaigned on? He needs to implement his agenda, whatever the hell it is.

Let me be specific. The CBO just came out with great numbers on the stimulus package. They said that it created up to 3.3 million jobs and added 1.7 to 4.5% to the GDP in the last quarter alone. How many Democrats have you heard talking about that? I haven't heard any. Why?

Because they're scared of their own shadow. Fox News beat them up on the stimulus package and a poll came out saying people are unsure whether it worked -- and that was enough to send the Democrats scrambling. Hey, you know that you might win on that issue -- if you actually fought!

I'm not convinced that a second stimulus is the way to go. It would depend on what they spent the money on. But if the president is convinced that we should try it, then he should convince us. If he doesn't have the courage of his convictions, how the hell are we supposed to believe in them?

They should brag about what they got right, but it's even more important to lead in the right direction from now on so we can have a reason to get excited about you. If I was the president, I'd nominate Elizabeth Warren, tell the big banks that there's a new sheriff in town and if they don't like it, they can eat dirt. Every poll in the country says the American people can't stand Wall Street -- and they're right.

This isn't about senseless populism. The big banks did rob us blind through the bailouts (AIG still owes us $178 billion that got funneled to the banks on Wall Street) and they continue to do so with nearly zero percent interest rates (and no lending to businesses in the meanwhile). Is the president going to do anything about it? Of course, not. Because that would make some people mad, and Obama hates that. This is the downside of No Drama Obama. A fight has drama, and a fight is what we need now. Punch them in the mouth. Leave a mark.

If the Democrats keep rolling over and being polite to Republicans because Obama wants to chase the myth of bipartisanship, his four years in office will be a colossal disaster. Here's what happens when you lay down your arms in any competitive arena, you get your head removed. Pick your arms up, and throw a goddamned punch.

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Unilateral Disarmament Has Destroyed the Democrats

President Obama spent the first two years of his administration practicing political unilateral disarmament. He laid down his arms to reach out to Republicans, and they ripped his arms off and clubbed him over the head with them.

This idea of playing patty-cakes with the Republicans is enormously naïve. When is this administration going to get it through their thick skulls that they will never work with you?!

Now, if attempts at bipartisanship had no downside, then of course I'd be in favor of it. As a theoretical matter, trying to reach out to the other side and reach consensus sounds lovely. But it does have a downside. You don't get to make your own case as you're playing nice with the other side. They're hammering you day in and day out, and you keep your powder dry. You know what that ends up in -- a massacre.

And that's exactly where we are now as the Democrats are looking to get slaughtered in 2010. Gallup says the Republicans have a historically large 10-point lead in generic Congressional matchups. The president has gone from a 68% approval rating to the low 40's. He's lost nearly 25% of the country in his approval rating. That's a disaster.

So, the president has fallen and he can't get up. But more importantly, he can't figure out why he fell. It's because you let the Republicans push you down and you never even fought back. You only have two months left -- take the f'in gloves off, Queensberry.

Here are how many people you will convince if you don't argue your side of the argument -- absolutely zero. Is the president aware that the Republicans are in the opposition party?

Now, it's almost too late for this election. Partly because it's hard to make that turn at this late juncture and because this is something you should have been doing all along so it's already in people's heads. But much more importantly, this isn't about how you campaign; this is about how you govern. He needs to govern with an agenda of change -- remember, that's what he originally campaigned on? He needs to implement his agenda, whatever the hell it is.

Let me be specific. The CBO just came out with great numbers on the stimulus package. They said that it created up to 3.3 million jobs and added 1.7 to 4.5% to the GDP in the last quarter alone. How many Democrats have you heard talking about that? I haven't heard any. Why?

Because they're scared of their own shadow. Fox News beat them up on the stimulus package and a poll came out saying people are unsure whether it worked -- and that was enough to send the Democrats scrambling. Hey, you know that you might win on that issue -- if you actually fought!

I'm not convinced that a second stimulus is the way to go. It would depend on what they spent the money on. But if the president is convinced that we should try it, then he should convince us. If he doesn't have the courage of his convictions, how the hell are we supposed to believe in them?

They should brag about what they got right, but it's even more important to lead in the right direction from now on so we can have a reason to get excited about you. If I was the president, I'd nominate Elizabeth Warren, tell the big banks that there's a new sheriff in town and if they don't like it, they can eat dirt. Every poll in the country says the American people can't stand Wall Street -- and they're right.

This isn't about senseless populism. The big banks did rob us blind through the bailouts (AIG still owes us $178 billion that got funneled to the banks on Wall Street) and they continue to do so with nearly zero percent interest rates (and no lending to businesses in the meanwhile). Is the president going to do anything about it? Of course, not. Because that would make some people mad, and Obama hates that. This is the downside of No Drama Obama. A fight has drama, and a fight is what we need now. Punch them in the mouth. Leave a mark.

If the Democrats keep rolling over and being polite to Republicans because Obama wants to chase the myth of bipartisanship, his four years in office will be a colossal disaster. Here's what happens when you lay down your arms in any competitive arena, you get your head removed. Pick your arms up, and throw a goddamned punch.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks
Become a Fan of The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

 

 

Weekly Audit: Why Do Deficit Hawks Hate Social Security?

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Last week, Social Security advocates learned something they had long suspected. Arguments for cutting Social Security aren’t really about economics or the deficit. They’re all about waging war on social services.

In short, some very prominent policymakers are out to dismantle Social Security on ideological grounds. The most recent example of this view comes from Alan Simpson, a former Republican Senator from Wyoming who now serves as co-Chair of President Barack Obama’s Federal Debt Commission. Earlier this summer, Simpson was caught on video spreading absurd lies about Social Security, but his latest outburst explains why he’s been so willing to distort the facts. Simpson simply hates Social Security.

As Joshua Holland highlights for AlterNet, Simpson fired off a nasty email to Ashley Carson, who advocates for elderly women, in which he referred to the most successful social program in U.S. history as “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”

Social Security is doing just fine

But Simpson has a lot of power on the Debt Commission, which is expected to recommend that Congress reduce the deficit by cutting social programs in a report this year. But as Holland notes, Social Security isn’t in trouble:

Social Security is in fine shape. It’s got a surplus that will run out in 2037, but even if nothing were to change by then, it could still continue to pay out 75 percent of scheduled benefits seventy-five years from now, long after the surplus disappears, and those benefits would still be higher than what retirees receive today.

What’s more, as William Greider notes for The Nation, Social Security has never added one cent to the federal budget deficit. According to the law that created the program, Social Security never can. Targeting Social Security in order to fix the deficit is like invading Iraq to fight Al-Qaeda. The issues are not related.

Raising the retirement age robs workers

The Debt Commission is likely to recommend raising the retirement age—the age at which Social Security benefits begin to be paid out. But as Martha C. White notes for The Washington Independent, it’s a “solution” that simply robs low-income workers of their tax money. Everybody pay Social Security taxes when they work, and when they retire, they receive federal support. If you don’t live long enough to actually retire, you don’t get any benefit from Social Security.

“The hardship of raising the retirement age falls disproportionately on low-income workers who work in physically demanding professions, jobs they may not be able to continue through their seventh decade. … Moreover, though the average lifespan has increased since Social Security’s creation, those extra years aren’t enjoyed equally by all Americans. Overall, Americans are living about 7 years longer. But the poorest 20 percent of Americans are living just two years longer.”

Raising the retirement age, in other words, disproportionately hurts the poor—the very people Social Security is supposed to help most.

Subprime scandal 2.0

So who would pick up the slack if Social Security were to be cut? The same crooked Wall Street scoundrels who brought us the financial crisis. If the government cuts back on retirement benefits, the financial establishment can step in and manage a bigger piece of the retirement pie.  The more we learn about the financial mess, the less we should want to see our retirement money controlled by bigwig financiers. Truthout carries a blockbuster new investigative report by ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger that reveals a new, multi-billion-dollar subprime scam engineered by the financial elite.

We’ve known about Wall Street’s subprime shenanigans for some time, but the report reveals that banks were essentially selling their own products to themselves in order to create the illusion that people really wanted lousy mortgages. It’s called “self-dealing,” and it’s supposed to be illegal.

Subprime Disaster, meet Mortgage Nightmare

Here’s how the scam worked: Wall Street crammed thousands of mortgages into securities, then sliced and diced those securities into new products called CDOs. Those CDOs, in turn, were divided into different “buckets” and sold to investors. The riskiest buckets paid out the most money to investors, but were the most likely to take losses if the underlying mortgages ever went bad. As the housing bubble grew more and more out-of-control, investors became wary of these risky buckets, and stopped buying them.

Wall Street banks were still making a killing from the packaging and sale of everything else, though, so they devised a plan to get rid of some risky bits: they’d buy them up themselves, without telling anybody. A bank would create a CDO called, say, Mortgage Nightmare CDO. Then it would create a separate CDO, called, say, Subprime Disaster CDO. Subprime Disaster would buy up a risky bucket from Mortgage Nightmare, creating the illusion to the market that banks were still able to sell off risky mortgage assets without any trouble, even though the bank was basically just selling garbage to itself.

That illusion propped up the prices of these risky assets and created more revenue for the tricky bankers who sold them, and plump, short-term profits for the banks. It also strongly encouraged other bankers to issue lousy mortgages to the public, since those loans could be packaged into lousy CDOs and score short-term profits for Wall Street’s schemers.

Ultimately, this scheming resulted in a multi-billion-dollar disaster for Wall Street, which taxpayers ended up footing the bill for. Anybody want to see that happen with Social Security?

Social programs did not cause the deficit

As Seth Freed Wessler notes for ColorLines, deficit hawks’ emphasis on social programs is at odds with the factors that actually created the deficit. The Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bank bailouts are the big-ticket items when it comes to government revenues and expenses. Yet deficit hawks in Congress have been refusing to extend paltry unemployment benefits or food stamps to the people hit hardest by the recession. And pretty soon they’re going to go after Social Security too.

In reality, the deficit is only a problem if investors are afraid that the government will default on its debt. Markets measure this worry with interest rates—high rates mean investors are worried, low rates mean they are not. Right now, interest rates on government bonds are at their lowest in decades. With the recession dragging on and the recovery weakening, now would be a great time for the government to spend more money to create jobs and help those knocked out of work.

Instead, the policy debate features cranky old men whining about 310-million-titted cows.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Political Spectrum Moves Right

Host of The Young Turks Cenk Uygur guest hosting on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show explains how the political spectrum has shifted far to the right in the last 30 years.

 

 

Helping Iceland

Iceland is a small country in big trouble.

During the heady times of economic growth, its banks expanded operations far beyond what the country could possibly support. When the global financial crisis came, all three collapsed. Millions of depositors in Britain and the Netherlands would have lost their savings.

When banks collapse nowadays, fortunately, governments intervene. The governments of both Britain and the Netherlands guaranteed the accounts of their citizens. In total, this cost said countries approximately 3.9 euros (or 5.3 billion dollars).

Understandably, said countries were also angered at picking up the tab of Iceland’s failed banks. The root of Iceland’s current troubles lies in their demands that Iceland repay the €3.9 billion. To force Iceland’s hand, Britain – in a rather mean gesture – used anti-terrorism laws to freeze Iceland’s financial assets. This helped crush the country’s economy.

Now, there are two problems with the demands of Britain and the Netherlands. Firstly, Icelanders really do not want to repay the money. To the average citizen, suffering for the mistakes of a few bankers smacks of unfairness. Giving money to what many view as a big bullying country is also unpopular. In a recent referendum on the question, 93% of voters rejected a deal to repay Britain and the Netherlands.

Secondly, it’s practically impossible for Iceland to repay the money. The country’s population, after all, numbers only around 300,000. The €3.9 billion in debt amounts to almost half of its GDP. Imagine if the United States owed $6.5 trillion to another country because of Goldman Sachs.

The best step for Britain and the Netherlands would just be to forgive Iceland’s debt – or, if that fails, to negotiate a very generous deal. Third World countries have their debt relieved all the time; there’s no good reason for Iceland to be an exception.

Perhaps United States can lend a hand. €3.9 billion is a lot for Iceland, but practically nothing for a country of America’s size. It may not even need to actually spend money to help Iceland; Britain, after all, still owes the United States £40 billion pounds (inflation-adjusted) that it borrowed from it to fight WWI.

More fundamentally, this situation may end very badly for the West. Iceland’s predicament brings to mind the massive reparations Germany faced after WWI – something which ended disastrously for all countries involved. Already hostility to Britain and the Netherlands is quite high in Iceland; it will probably rise further. Last November the president of Iceland accused its neighbors of betraying Iceland during its time of need.

There may come a time when the West is likewise in a dire strait – whether it be war, economic peril, or something else. It may need all the help it can get. Then Britain and the Netherlands may rue taking a country like Iceland for granted. In the best case scenario, Britain and the Netherlands get their €3.9 billion, and Iceland forgives and forgets. In the worst case – one of those “unknown unknowns” – their bullying may end up costing the West far more than €3.9 billion.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

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