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Archive for February 14th, 2009

Israel’s Kingmaker in Legal Limbo

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:45 am by HL

Israel’s Kingmaker in Legal Limbo

With his party holding 15 seats in the Knesset, Avigdor Lieberman of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu is poised to pick Israel’s next government. Lieberman would like a choice cabinet post in exchange for anointing the next premier, but he’s under investigation for allegedly laundering millions of overseas dollars.

Haaretz:

It may not be possible to appoint Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman as finance minister – a possibility that had been discussed during the coalition talks of the past two days – because the Tax Authority, which is part of the Finance Ministry, was involved in the criminal investigation against Lieberman.

The ongoing investigation already prevents him from heading either the public security or the justice ministry, since they oversee the police and the prosecution, respectively, and it would be improper for a minister under investigation to oversee the organizations responsible for deciding his case. The Finance Ministry, in contrast, would not normally be a problem, and sources involved in the coalition talks said that Lieberman did demand this portfolio, along with the Housing Ministry, in his talks with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. But the fact that the Tax Authority was also involved in the Lieberman probe may throw a monkey wrench into this idea.

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GOP Leader McConnell Also Planned Presidents’ Day Vacation

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:44 am by HL

GOP Leader McConnell Also Planned Presidents’ Day Vacation
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not the only leader rushing to get out of Washington for a special trip. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell…

Specter: Republicans Support Stimulus, Don’t Want ‘Fingerprints’ On It
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who broke with his party to support President Obama’s stimulus package last week, said before the final vote Friday that more…

Plouffe Rep: Georgetown Decided To Keep Event Off-Record At Last Minute
Trying to put a final coda on the bizarre off-the-record speech David Plouffe gave at the National Press Club Thursday, figures close to the Obama…

Lieberman Stepped Up Role As Talks Ebbed
Sen. Ben Nelson spent the last two weeks either surrounded by reporters or huddled with centrist members of both parties, hashing out a deal to…

Terry Cosgrove: Good for the Goose, Good for the Gander
Right-wingers are suing the State of California to keep their financial contributions to Prop 8 out of the public view. Secret Santa is one thing, but a secret political contribution is quite another.


McClatchy asserts without evidence that a “range of economists” say recovery bill won’t stimulate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:43 am by HL

McClatchy asserts without evidence that a “range of economists” say recovery bill won’t stimulate

In a February 13 McClatchy article headlined “Will the stimulus actually stimulate? Economists say no,” reporter Kevin G. Hall claimed that “a range of economists” believe that the economic recovery bill “is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won’t stimulate economic activity.” Hall later suggested that economists on both “side[s] of the political spectrum” do not support the recovery bill. In fact, the only person quoted in the article whom Hall identified as being associated with Democrats or progressives was quoted by Hall as saying that “the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery.”

In the article, Hall reported: ” ‘All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus,’ said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.” Hall then added: “The view wasn’t much more supportive on the other side of the political spectrum. In a brief on the stimulus compromise, William Galston, a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser, warned Thursday that a bank-rescue plan being finalized will make the $789 billion look like ‘pocket change.’ ”

However, as the next sentence Hall quoted from a February 12 statement by Galston makes clear, Galston was not criticizing the bill; indeed, he called the congressional agreement on the bill a “much needed victory” for the Obama administration. Rather, Galston said what many economists have said, that a financial bailout plan is also necessary for economic recovery. Hall wrote: ” ‘While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient,’ Galston wrote. ‘As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation — at best.’ “

From Galston’s statement:

With yesterday’s agreement between House and Senate negotiators on an economic stimulus bill, the young Obama administration won a hard-fought and much needed victory. The compromise, which cut the overall cost of the legislation to $789 billion, pared back items dear to both liberals and the business community.

[…]

Throughout these negotiations, the administration has insisted that a stimulus bill of roughly $800 billion would “create or save” between 3 and 4 million jobs. Because the American public, while hoping for the best, remain skeptical about government’s ability to improve their lives, the president would be well advised to dramatize the implementation of the bill. Through the spring, he should appear every week at a site where stimulus money is making it possible for “shovel-ready” projects to get started. The language of long-term investment is too anodyne for the moment: the mantra must be jobs, jobs, jobs if average Americans are to begin regaining their faith in the future.

While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient — and probably not the most important component of the overall program. As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation — at best. Treasury Secretary Geithner’s initial sketch of a financial package failed to inspire confidence, either in Congress or in the markets. Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent.

[…]

Sooner or later, the administration will have to level with Congress and the people, and then make the case for a financial rescue package the magnitude of which will make the stimulus package look like pocket change. However hard it may have been to get the stimulus to the finish-line, it will prove to have been easy in comparison to the task that lies ahead.

From Hall’s February 13 McClatchy article:

The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won’t stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.

[…]

Another reason that some analysts frown on the stimulus is the social spending it includes on things such as the Head Start program for disadvantaged children and aid to NASA for climate-change research. Both may be worthy efforts, but they aren’t aimed at delivering short-term boosts to economic activity.

“All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus,” said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.

The view wasn’t much more supportive on the other side of the political spectrum. In a brief on the stimulus compromise, William Galston, a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser, warned Thursday that a bank-rescue plan being finalized will make the $789 billion look like “pocket change.”

“While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient,” Galston wrote. “As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation — at best.”

” . . . Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent. The temptation will be to muddle along, hoping that these institutions can gradually regain strength without putting massive amounts of taxpayers’ money at risk. If we go down that road, we are likely to end up with zombie banks whose balance sheets are riddled with near-worthless investments — banks that cannot lend to credit-worthy customers and who cannot trust one another,” Galston wrote.

With the economy in a tailspin, doing nothing isn’t an option, however.


Don’t Call It a Compromise

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:42 am by HL

Don’t Call It a Compromise
“I have worked with my colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to cut wasteful spending in this bill and focus taxpayer dollars where they will do the most good.” — Sen. Kent Conrad, one extremely relieved man. “[The stimulus is] much more focused on jobs after Senator Susan Collins of Maine, I and a bipartisan group of senators cut $110 billion of non-stimulative spending . . .” — Sen. Bill Nelson, if possible, even more extremely relieved. The cause of their relief? Sens. Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, of course. According to the Beltway media, the three GOP amigos — whose votes this week allowed Senate Democrats to pass an $838 billion “stimulus” — are now the most “powerful” people in Washington. Bills succeed or spontaneously combust at their very say-so. Want sunshine tomorrow? Ask the senators from Maine. They’ll make it happen.


Domenici Subpoenaed In US Attorneys Probe

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:41 am by HL

Domenici Subpoenaed In US Attorneys Probe
Last week, TPMmuckraker reported that the investigation by prosecutor Nora Dannehy into the US Attorney firings was focusing on Pete Domenici. And today, the Washington Post reports that Dannehy has issued a subpoena to the former New Mexico Republican senator….

“The Majority’s Waterloo On Ethics”? Taking Stock Of the PMA Lobbying Probe
Earlier this week, Keith Ashdown of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, told The Hill that one troubled lobbying firm with ties to some Democratic lawmakers, “will become the majority’s Waterloo on ethics.” Ashdown added: “If they do not…

Source: Collins Strips Stim Bill Of Whistleblower Protections
Another great coup for the centrists! Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine GOP dealmaker who’s been in the limelight this week for helping to pass a watered down stimulus, has been talking a good game about the need to avoid wasting…






Stimulus Plan Passes Senate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:36 am by HL

Stimulus Plan Passes Senate
A sharply divided Congress approved President Obama’s $787.2 billion economic stimulus package late Friday night. The final vote in the Senate was 60 to 38.

The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his signature. Obama called the bill “a major milestone” in turning around the economy.

CQ Politics: “Dramatizing the razor-thin margin of the vote,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “flew into Andrews Air Force Base outside the nation’s capital from Mansfield, Ohio, on a government-chartered aircraft arranged by the White House, after aides said Brown determined there was no commercial air service that could bring him to Washington and back to Ohio Friday night. After voting, Brown flew back to his home state for the funeral Saturday morning.

The New York Times has a good run down of what’s included in the final package.


A Valentine’s Day Challenge: Would You Not Get Married Until I Can Get Married?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:35 am by HL

A Valentine’s Day Challenge: Would You Not Get Married Until I Can Get Married?
Despite the discomfort the question is certain to engender, I think it’s time to ask it. Persistently and repeatedly.

Don’t Get Duped Like Obama: Here’re the Top 5 Myths About Coal
The coal industry has spent millions trying to fool the American public, Congress and the president. Here’s how to beat the hype.

Iraq From an Armored BMW: Where U.S. ‘Reconstruction’ Funds Are Really Going
Fallujah remains devastated, even as the U.S. military delivers shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills to the sheiks in charge.

Obama, Your Treasury Secretary’s Plan Stinks — Assume Responsibility and Take Care of It
One reason Obama won is that the public had more than its fill of a disconnected president. Let’s see him get his hands dirty and take care of this.


The Economists Who Missed the Housing Bubble Are Coming After Your Social Security

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:34 am by HL

The Economists Who Missed the Housing Bubble Are Coming After Your Social Security
Word has it that President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with “reforming” Social Security. According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not…

Due Diligence, Damn It
Rauchway’s book is an exceptionally valuable pocket summary of the major actions of the New Deal. It solves a big problem for those with small pockets: how to keep enough facts at close hand to answer, with authority, all…

The View From Britain
I have greatly enjoyed these comments from a newer generation of New Deal historians. As someone who started work on the New Deal forty years ago, I have a lot of sympathy with Eric’s lament about ‘writing a book…


The Week In Blog: Thinking Big Edition

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:33 am by HL

The Week In Blog: Thinking Big Edition

The latest edition of The Week In Blog is up at bloggingheads.tv, featuring Conn Carroll and myself discussing blog reaction to the economic recovery bill and the next phase of the financial bailout. Watch it below.


RNC Chair Steele on his own party: ?No reason, none, to trust our words or our actions at this point.?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 14th, 2009 5:32 am by HL

RNC Chair Steele on his own party: ?No reason, none, to trust our words or our actions at this point.?
On Glenn Beck’s Fox News show this evening, Beck told RNC Chairman Michael Steele that conservatives are “pissed” at Republicans because they don’t “expect socialism” from them. “Why should we even think twice of pulling a lever again?” asked Beck. Steele responded that he was right and that voters have “no reason” to trust the […]

On Glenn Beck’s Fox News show this evening, Beck told RNC Chairman Michael Steele that conservatives are “pissed” at Republicans because they don’t “expect socialism” from them. “Why should we even think twice of pulling a lever again?” asked Beck. Steele responded that he was right and that voters have “no reason” to trust the GOP “at this point”:

STEELE: Yeah, no, Glenn. I’m not gonna, look, I’m not going to soft pedal this with you. I’m not going to try to blow smoke either. The reality of it is, you are absolutely right. You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point. So, yeah, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

Watch it: