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February 05, 2009

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// this country's roughly 20,000 government employees,//

This should say '20,000,000'.

If Reid doesn't do either of those things he should be stripped of his position. However, I don't think it will come to that.

Republicans' view of bipartisanship:

When in power, getting one Democrat to agree with them doing the things they want to do.

When they are out of power, having the Democrats give them everything they want, despite the fact that the public has repudiated what they want.

I'm glad Obama reached out to them. It was the right thing to do, both morally and tactically. But there are limits. And we have reached them.

I just wish Obama realized that the minute after the House GOP had their vote. He could have gone to the Senate with a more firm resolve to get a better stimulus bill passed instead of wasting more days trying to accommodate Republicans who don't give a rat's ass for anything other than godawful tax cuts.

If there are enough votes to defeat a filibuster in the Senate, well and good. If not, Harry Reid should do one of two things: (a) reintroduce the bill under reconciliation rules, which do not allow filibusters, or (b) force any Republicans who want to filibuster the bill to actually stand up in the Senate chamber and talk.

Yes. Force a Senator or two to stand up and let the whole world see just exactly who it is that's fiddling while the world burns. If they think the American people are gonna blame Democrats in 2010 if the stimulus doesn't pass or doesn't work, forget it. We're gonna keep remembering which party it was that got us in this mess in the first place (Repubs), and who didn't do the right things when they had the chance (Repubs again).

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT

DECEMBER 2007

Total Full-Time

2,730,050

PaulW, I was under the impression that the Senate Republicans were a bit saner than the House ones, so I'm surprised things have gone the way they have. Of course, unlike Obama, I don't know any of the senators personally.

I'm just stupid, I guess, but how can tax cuts alone create jobs & stimulate the economy? In the long run, on occassion, when the winds are blowing in the right direction, it can happen. But in the last 20+ years, all tax cuts have accomplished is to make those in power richer, i.e. bonuses, stock options, higher salaries.

Do I want the government 'in our business' permanantly? No. But, as during the Great Depression, it worked as a 'temporary fix'.

This whole thing reminded me of the episode of "The West Wing" when the new Speaker kept adding changes to the budget & Bartlett finally shut down the government. Sometimes you just have to stand up to bullies. More often than not, the bully is the one who ends up looking stupid.

any plan that involves Harry Reid playing hardball is a plan that will fail.

garyb50, 20,000,000 is the figure for government employees at all levels of government, 60% of which work for local governments.

House Republicans: we need to be more like the Taliban!

My take on negotiating with republicans.

Rewind the clock to 1991. Gulf War 1 is over in record time and GHB has a 91% approval rating. He seizes his chance to enact his desired legacy...a capital gains tax cut.

Seriously. This is all the modern Republican party has. This is what they are.

And with every month that goes by there's another half-million people who are painfully aware that a tax cut means nothing when you don't have an income.

Rahm Throws Pelosi Under the Bridge ...Jane Hamsher

Rather than define the bill by its substance and make its opponents attack jobs creation, the strategy was to talk about process -- how everyone's ideas on both sides of the aisle would be welcome and that this bill would represent the best bipartisan thinking about how to face the current economic crisis. That left the door wide open for Republicans to step through and caterwaul that their ideas weren't being respected in this new halcyon world of bipartisanship, and somebody had to take the blame. Nancy Pelosi, come on down!

Now that conventional wisdom has calcified around the notion that this bill is "deeply flawed," Senate "moderates" eager to flex their muscles are busying themselves hacking entire limbs off of it and turning it into something unrecognizable. The Obama camp is belatedly trying to send a positive message about it, but are applauding this transmogrification and seem concerned only with passing something at this point so Obama doesn't suffer his own HillaryCare nary two weeks in office -- and making sure someone else carries the blame. Someone who's seat, it should be noted, is eyed by Rahm Emanuel for his post-White House tenure.

Somebody must tell the Czar Obama what bad Rahm is doing!

Obama is a brilliant politician. Your mistake is to think he is progressive or liberal rather than a friend and ally of the Blue Dogs and "moderate" Republicans. Instead of trying to understand what is going on as Obama vs Republicans, try to see that the goal is to empower the Blue Dogs and marginalize either wing.

Obama is much closer to Ben Nelson and Susan Collins than to Kennedy or even Pelosi. And the Blue Dogs are really the only ones that care about "bipartisanship."

amen to all -- i thought i saw a pitchfork in there at the end and I liked it. :)


Soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardspersons ("troops", for short) are government employees. Somebody tell Michael Steele.

But, to the main topic: we have differences of opinion in this country -- AND WE HOLD ELECTIONS TO SETTLE THEM.

Changing Republicans' minds by arguing with them is a fine and noble goal -- during an election campaign. The electorate heard the arguments, went to the polls, and voted for Democrats to run the government. I can understand why the GOP wants to pretend that's not what happened. But what's Obama's excuse?

--TP

Just heard Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) on NPR, and he used the "It's not a stimulus bill, it's a spending bill" line. The insanity is truly incorporated into the official Republican talking points.

The Republican "plan" that 36 of 41 40 Republican sentators (excluding Gregg as a functioning Republican senator on Stimulus issues) really needs to be read to be believed. Cribbing from a Brian Beutler post at Yglesias's blog:

o Permanently repeal the alternative minimum tax once and for all;
o Permanently keep the capital gains and dividends taxes at 15 percent;
o Permanently kill the Death Tax for estates under $5 million, and cut the tax rate to 15 percent for those above;
o Permanently extend the $1,000-per-child tax credit;
o Permanently repeal the marriage tax penalty;
o Permanently simplify itemized deductions to include only home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
o Lower top marginal income rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
o Simplify the tax code to include only two other brackets, 15 and 10 percent.
o Lower corporate tax rate as well, from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Geez, if the Heritage Foundation and its wealthy donors told them to legislate that the Earth was flat they'd jump to attention and vote for that, too.

KCinDC,
You don't seem to have been paying attention for the past 20 years or so if you think Senate Republicans are "saner" than their House counterparts. From Specter, Hatch, Lott (former), McConnell, Brownback, Bunning, Chambling, Cornyn.... (Hatch might appear to be sane but his political philosophy is nuts.)

I think the Republicans in Congress are feeling kind of liberated these days. Being the minority party again, they are freed from the burden of actually having to govern. They can instead indulge their natural appetite for pure political theater.

20,000,000 is the figure for government employees at all levels of government, 60% of which work for local governments.

That puts them at just under 15% of the total US workforce, which is just over 138M. For now, anyway.

Fifteen percent in the public sector will either strike you as too many, not enough, or kind of OK. I'm in the "kind of OK" column.

House Republicans: we need to be more like the Taliban!

Unleash the predator drones!

You know, if the Democrats can't make the Republicans look like complete morons for supporting the legislation Warren describes, it's hopeless.

Could we get someone who knows how to fight? Please?

George, I'm not talking about 20 years ago. I'm talking about now, after the House Republican caucus has been whittled down to mostly the ones from the wingnuttiest districts. There's no gerrymandering for the Senate, so you have to get a whole wingnutty state, which is harder.

I wish this post could be reprinted as an Op-ED in every major paper in this country.

We are talking about a party one of whose Senators said that the bill currently making its way through Congress is "not a Stimulus bill. It's just a spending bill." Which is, of course, like saying "That's not a mammal; it's just a horse."

For the sake of accuracy, wouldn't that be the other way around? That is, "horse" is a subset of "mammal" in the same way that "stimulus bill" is a subset of "spending bill". Would probably make more sense if it read, "That's not a horse; it's just a mammal."

That aside, I'm in full substantial agreement with this post. I'm all for reaching across the aisle to ensure that legislation reflects the will of more than just 50 + 1 of the electorate. But we won. If the Republicans are going to insist on being stuck in a pre-depression mentality, and are going to put forward such a deeply unserious laundry list of conservative wish items as their contribution to the debate, then they should get used to being a minority party. And the Dems should say, "fine, we tried, but you're just being obstructionist, so we'll do it without you." And strip from the bill every single provision that was added in order to appease Republicans rather than being a good addition to the bill on its own merits.

But we won.

Who is this "we" kemosabe? Obama won.

every single provision that was added in order to appease Republicans

See, this is what people aren't getting. The tax cuts weren't added to get Republican votes. Obama's tax cuts are apparently non-negotiable items in the bill, and are never discussed on Capitol Hill.

The spending was added to get Democratic votes and Obama appears willing to negotiate the spending away. This is why we are being contantly barraged with more tax cuts from both sides of the aisle, because the Senators know what Obama wants and will sign. Tax cuts.

A University of Chicago President. +Berkeley Mafia & Wall Street. Apparently Volcker is too commie pink to get access through Summers.

Jeebus bob I hope you're wrong.

Coons at the white house?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/05/AR2009020501306.html

Is the WaPo making a bad joke?


Berkeley Mafia?

"not a Stimulus bill. It's just a spending bill." Which is, of course, like saying "That's not a mammal; it's just a horse." "

I'm sorry, but that's a lousy analogy. A horse cannot be anything but a mammal. All horses are mammals.

A spending bill can be something other than a stimulus package. Not all spending bills are stimulus packages.

And while you're critiquing the Republicans for economic illiteracy (which, of course, is generally accurate), may we also point out that Obama's economic knowledge is nil, and that most economists are also highly dubious about the wisdom of this bill? Many of the most economically literate also question whether this bill will really help the economy, or whether it will just increase spending.

I'm depressed.

Not as cynical as Bob. Just depressed. Ithought that the Dems had finaally learned to fight.

See, this is what people aren't getting. The tax cuts weren't added to get Republican votes.

bob mcmanus is right.

All this sturm-und-drang in leftblogistan about Obama "caving in to the GOP on tax cuts" ignores what Obama's economic advisors (especially Summers) are planning. They are conventional Keynesians - they see tax cuts as stimulus, albeit with a lower multiplier than spending. They would be putting tax cuts into the package even if the GOP did not exist, because tax cuts are administratively faster to implement than much of the infrastructure spending. The plan is to sacrifice multiplier in exchange for speed, because we are already in a deflationary spiral (see also Krugman here), which means that speed is at a premium right now.

When your house is on fire, you don't stand around debating the merits of sand vs. water in dousing the flames - you just grab whatever is most handy at the moment and start flinging it. This is the situation we are in now. This isn't "the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression" - this is the Great Depression, or what it would have looked like in the early stages if monetary policy had been loose rather than tight.

I think "most economists are also highly dubious about the wisdom of this bill" requires a cite, no?

Berkeley Mafia?

Posted by: Ugh | February 05, 2009 at 06:03 PM

Berkeley Mafia, Chicago Boys, I presume you can find Wikipedia yourself if you care. It is just an unjustifiable cheap slur until I do a faculty & recruiting history.

I have better books on the subject, but Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine ain't a terrible introduction.

Jeebus bob I hope you're wrong.

That S-Chip needed a Pay-Go tax offset was not encouraging. A Blue Dog or Reagan Democrat is not a Republican. They are compulsive budget-balancers and I don't think Obama likes this deficit spending economics.

"Most economists" aren't dubious about this bill's "wisdom". Rather, they're saying it is vital, necessary, imperative, etc. . . . and it doesn't go far enough. This is not akin to an agreement on inaction. They are in near total agreement that spending -- yes, spending -- is what needs to happen, and fast. And lots of it. More, even, than has been proposed. Phrasing it -- as Mr. Henley does -- as if they disapprove of spending, or of the "wisdom" of a stimulus plan, is just plain disingenuous, and kissing cousin to a flat-out lie.

Stephen Dinan (whoever he is) at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/feb/04/cbo-obama-stimulus-harmful-over-long-haul/

"President Obama's economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing."

In my personal life I have always opted for the best long term value and it has served me well. I don't see why the govt should act otherwise and trade the future for the present. That is one of the reasons I am against the stimulus.

I don't mind, however, if the feds spend money to buy infrastructure and make sure the existing safety net programs don't run short of money. I know the infrastructure costs have no immediate effect. But I don't call the plan a stimulus either. I call it 'needed maintenance'.

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape"

-- Grover Norquist


That S-Chip needed a Pay-Go tax offset was not encouraging. A Blue Dog or Reagan Democrat is not a Republican. They are compulsive budget-balancers and I don't think Obama likes this deficit spending economics.

bob, I have a question.

William Buiter (amongst others) has been quite vocal in his opinion that the US needs to demonstrate both the willingness and the capacity to raise taxes substantially and/or slash spending at some point in the foreseeable future in order to pay down the deficits we are creating today, or else we are going to run out of options in terms of borrowing more money (i.e. rates on Treasuries will soar). If he is correct then it seems to me that the budget deficit hawks are right, at least in the medium to long term.

What is your take on this question? Do you feel that the practical constraints on our borrowing lie somewhere near the levels projected for this year and for next (i.e. somwhere the range of 1.2-2 trillion per year), or not? And if not, where do you think that ceiling is located, or what mechanisms do you envision whereby there is no effective ceiling?

dave, it would probably help if you read the reports refered to in that article. There is no statement of the stimulus versus doingnothing.

It does project a drop in GDP by 2019, but not from the current position, but after gaining several percentage points prior to that time.

Dinan (whoever he is) is blowing smoke out his ---.

Oh, and BTW, the CBO states that tax credits, refunds or reducing taxes is the lowest of the stimulus tactics in the bill. And it is interesting to note that the return, although somewhat minimal compared toother spending, for tax cuts to lower and middle level incomes is 3-5 times more effective than tax cuts for the wealthy.

Yeah Buiter's kind of scary with that whole "the world dumps dollar-denominated assets in two to five years" stuff. (That stuff is here.)

What is your take on this question? Do you feel that the practical constraints on our borrowing lie somewhere near the levels projected for this year and for next (i.e. somwhere the range of 1.2-2 trillion per year), or not?

Who knows. Everyone has been surprised so far. But it is capital flight from developing countries and SWF's that have been financing us, IOW countries even poorer than ourselves. I saw a long chart of various currencies today, all dropping relative to the dollar. Fiscal or monetary stimulus won't be available for them and they will suffer.

The US remains, despicably, the safest haven for plutocratic wealth. China, for example, is in a world of social unrest now, so I suspect that will continue.

Not long ago, I though about printing until short rates rose to 10%, and then keeping them there for a decade. Only pull back with signs of hyperinflation. Use that money for currency swaps, in order to support developing nations currencies. We are in deflation, and deflation really sucks.

But anyway:We have to raise taxes now. Taxes support the currency, and enable borrowing. We are currently at 30-35$ of GDP including state & local. We need to go at least to 40-45%, and I think 50-60% of GDP for a decade would be even better.

Private sector is just toast. We will now see a generation or two of savers and low propensity to consume, distrust in banks, RE, all of the private sector. It's the government or Japan II.

The Republicans might as well say, as some conservative economists already have said, that it will be "salutary" for the average American to suffer and that the economy must right itself in its own time; meanwhile, managers must adapt to making sweeping layoffs, curtailing employee health insurance, and wearing bulletproof vests for when the employees go postal. I truly believe the Republicans' real plan is for the US to become like Brazil, where the rich live not just in gated communities, but in guarded fortresses with their own private armies, there is no middle class, and the poor live in shacks with pirated utilities.

The Republicans believe, quite sincerely, that all government spending is bad, all tax cuts are good, and cuts at the top are best of all. They believe the Great Depression would have been a minor recession if Hoover had just sat on his hands and not pursued any interventionist policies, and would certainly have been much shorter and milder if FDR had not won and taken stronger action. It is pointless to argue that the vast majority of economists, including most conservative economists, disagree. Republicans either (a) don't know that, or (b) think most economists are wrong.

All of which means Republicans see themselves as desparately fighting to stop disaterous policies. They are also taking this message to the airwaves, with great success. Obama and the Democrats need to learn their lesson here. Bipartisanship will not work between two groups with such fundamentally different policy outlooks. From now on, instead of negotiating with Republicans before undertaking a policy initiative, Obama should make the case to the public and have Congressional Democrats take it public, and mobilize, not just the base, but everyone with an interest in having the policy pass. Then maybe, with luck, he can pry loose enough Senate Republicans to defeat a filibuster.

//The US remains, despicably, the safest haven for plutocratic wealth.//

Why is it despicable to be the most reliable place to put money?

I heartily endorse this comment:by Enlightened Layperson | February 05, 2009 at 10:29 PM

d'd'd'dave:

d'd'd'does that mean you agree with my assessment of Republican motives, or that you share the views I was d'd'd'describing?

Republicans do not think that all spending is bad. Republican politicians think that all spending is bad except what goes to special interests in their districts. Republican voters think that all spending is bad except what goes to benefit them. The principle they care about the most is selfishness.

The republicans in Congress ar not fightng to defend anything but their own power. If they can't be the partisan bullies who run everything than they will be the partisan bullies who sabotage everything. The power to steer money to themselves is all they care about.

You must understand that every government employee kills by his/her very existence at least 500 jobs in the private sector (actually the jobs lost is proportional to the square of the number of government parasites), so firing all of them would instantly create 2-7 billion jobs (and that's just the numbers for Wyoming). So the claim that government has never in the history of mankind created a job is true, if "net" is implied.

Hartmut:

LOL

There's a lot of talk in these comments about how republicans are and what they want that is clearly distorted and/or exaggerated. This is the form of 'debate' popularized by Rush Limbaugh and since adopted by most republicans. It drives me crazy because it eliminates any possibility of meaningful debate with the other side (who is forced to try to correct the misperception about what they think rather than making their own argument). It's disturbing that this is one of the few things crossing party lines.

In response to the original post: I agree with you generally on the merit of each party's position, but if compromising with people who disagree with you was easy, we'd be doing it already. If democrats (I'm thisclose to saying 'we', but I'm still ever-so-slightly libertarian) really want to improve the way government works rather than just pushing their own agenda while it's their turn, they'll have to swallow a few bitter pills to get the ball rolling. Keep in mind, the republicans are still seeing Obama as as their enemy -- he's trying to do juust enough show them he's not. It's not enough to tell them 'I'm giving you these things I don't care about as much' -- you have to hear them ask for something you don't want to give, and then let go.

It's crazy that 36 of 40 republican senators voted for the Demint plan, but they knew it wasn't going to pass. That was just a stunt to say 'we don't like your bill'. (Hats off to Collins, Snowe, Spector and Voinovich for not indulging, although I'd have to know their reasoning to give full credit.) Both sides are polarized right now. I bet you could get a majority of democrats to approve a bill for $300 billion for education, if they were sure it wouldn't pass. It's a great opportunity to build your party cred without doing any real damage.

Granted, the republicans have made (and continue to make) collaboration difficult, but so have many democrats. Less than one month in to the first period of Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches in over a decade, and everyone outside of Obama's inner circle is already screaming that his efforts to collaborate are 'giving in'. This smacks of 'surrendering to the terrorists' to me.

Try to open your mind and find the real reasons the other side holds their viewpoint. I can assure you not all republicans are completely greedy and selfish. They want the economy to recover, just like democrats do. They're concerned about high taxes, government debt (somewhat hippocritacally, but it IS important), disincentivizing productivity and innovation, and creating a society where you can't keep what you earn (and so on). While I'm not personally as concerned about all of these issues as republicans are, they're valid concerns. I'm of the opinion that wealthy and corporate interests are driving their party's policies too much, but that doesn't invalidate all their positions. Let's give Obama a chance to build something better. My boy is wicked smaht -- have a little faith.

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