Home > Main, Political Ranting > Bits & Pieces, November 21, 2006

Bits & Pieces, November 21, 2006

November 21st, 2008

What’s going on with Obama’s nomination of Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security chief? Is Napolitano truly the best-qualified person for the job? Does it have to do with Napolitano being an early Obama supporter? Does she really want that job? Compared to being a governor, is DHS secretary a plum posting?

Here’s the thing: if Napolitano leaves office, Republicans run away with not one, but potentially two prizes. First, Napolitano would be replaced by a Republican lieutenant governor, and second, it would make it much more unlikely that Napolitano would run against John McCain for his Senate seat in 2010–not impossible, but much more unlikely. And Napolitano is the only candidate likely to knock McCain out and gain a seat for the Dems. So this move hands the GOP a governorship and helps them retain a Senate seat. What gives?

Is it purely coincidence that this news broke very soon after Obama met with McCain? Or am I just being overly suspicious here?

First it was automobile honchos flying luxurious and incredibly expensive private jets to Washington to ask for taxpayer money to bail out their companies. Now it’s bank executives bailing out with golden parachutes right before the parachutes expire with the acceptance of bailout money–robbing the institutions of substantial chunks of the money taxpayers are going to have to pump back into them. It’s as if the executives are brashly and unapologetically continuing their ways of opulent greed, not even trying to put on a show.

The auto execs are piling on the excuses for private jets, but none add up. Their primary excuse is one of security, but they only cite the dangers of kidnapping when the executives travel to dangerous countries. Excuse me? When was the last time someone was kidnaped on a plane or before they got to customs at an airport? Please. If special circumstances warrant extra security, then lease a plane, or make other arrangements. Another excuse is access to telephones and email–another BS argument, as first class on most airlines include such services. Another excuse is the ability to talk in private–as if this were really an unfixable dilemma for the short periods of time execs are in first class on a jet. Provisions can be made, easily, to get around any and all of these without paying tens of millions of dollars–now taxpayer dollars–to maintain a fleet of luxury jets, which are in fact nothing but a pricey perk.

Interesting about that SOFA pact that Bush arranged. It essentially committed the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq by 2011, laying out a distinct timeline for the exit of U.S. troops. Now, maybe Bush had no choice, and would have been in the tricky position of being told to get out of Iraq now if he hadn’t agreed to it. But essentially what it does is rob the Republicans of the chance to say that Obama was responsible for whatever bad stuff happened as a result of the U.S. pulling out of Iraq. They can no longer say that Obama lost the war and caused whatever havoc to erupt because he pulled the troops out–because Bush has now taken on the mantle of the one who pulled out the troops.

Of course, truth rarely gets in the way of Republican political attacks–they’ll still blame Obama for pulling out the troops, but it’ll be harder for them to make that stick. They’ll try to say that it’s how Obama pulled them out, or something he did or was responsible for along the way. Hell, they’re already blaming the recession on Obama, they’ll find some way to blame him for everything bad that happens, no matter how blatant the double-standard. Look at how they blamed Bill Clinton for “decimating” the military, when it was Bush 41 who did most of the cutting. Still, this SOFA agreement does take a good deal of the sting out of whatever attacks they want to launch in the future.

It seems that al Qaeda would have been much happier with John McCain. Obama’s election has al Qaeda rattled, as they have now lost a powerful recruiting tool and support mechanism. With Obama set to close down Guantanamo, put an end to torture, oversee the withdrawal of troops in Iraq, and re-brand the American image around the world, people in the Muslim world are a lot less likely to offer al Qaeda support or approval. Not to mention that Obama is set to re-focus American and international military efforts of the heart of al Qaeda’s operations and probably strengthen the investigative and prosecutorial efforts to curtail the organization’s activities.

This is quite something. Bush, at the G20 conference, joined the lineup of world leaders–but was conspicuously detached from all the greeting, hugging, and hand-shaking. As almost everyone else engaged in a great deal of enthusiastic welcoming, Bush simply walked past most of them, and everyone simply ignored Bush. A few times, Bush looked up at people in the upper row, as if to gauge wether or not a greeting was in order–and then walked on as no hand was extended to him. A CNN commentator likened Bush to the “most unpopular kid in high school.” Watch:


Want some fun? Miss your old Super Mario Brothers game? Play Super Obama World.

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  1. Tim Kane
    November 21st, 2008 at 13:06 | #1

    The deal with the auto companies has the nation over a barrel.

    Maybe GM is bluffing. Maybe not. As a friend once told me, the person that cares the least controls the relationship. Wagoner has received $26 million a year for about four years now running GM. GM collapses and he gets a nice condo in Bora Bora or the Riveria. However, $26 billion seems like chump change, to keep the whole midwest alive, while we’re spending $260 billion just to keep one street, Wall Street, alive in New York. The Republicans are about to lose the Midwest for a generation, maybe two.

    In the mean time I’ve done some “back of the envelope” calculations on the enormity of the problem. Bush came into office in 2001 with almost a trillion dollar surplus. All of that was moved over to the supply side of the economy (meaning really rich investors). Since 2001, median family income has gone down roughly $2000 even while GNP has gone up 5%. $2000 x 100 million families, is another $2 trillion moved over to the supply side. But that 5% increase, if that didn’t go to families, it went some where? Yes, another $2 trillion over to the supply side. Then there are all those wars and the cash flowing in no bid contracts. At least another trillion dollars, and prehaps another $3 trillion.

    And thats just the stuff I can think of off the back of my head.

    In short, Bush has redistributed wealth from the demand side of the economy to the supply side of the economy in the order of $8 trillion dollars.

    How much is $8 trillion dollars? I live in Korea. Korea produces more cars and steel than any nation in Europe, except Germany. They are also number one or two in the production of Ships, Semiconductors, Flat Panel displays, and cell phones. Yet all told, Korea’s economy is just under $1 trillion in GNP (by most measures in most years using pre-2008 dollars). By the way, that $950 billion provides nearly 50 million Koreans with a mostly middle class life style.

    Now George Bush has given as much as 8 (or even more) times that much to perhaps the top 30,000 families in the U.S. and most of that went to the top 3,000 families, give or take 1500.

    That’s a lot of money. Keep in mind, that median wages have not gone up (less than 50 cents) since 1980, while the GNP has more than doubled. In 2001, when Bush took over there was alread too much money on the supply side. That’s what caused the tech bubble. Too much investment money was trying to find a decent return. Tech stocks were it.

    So Bush has hollowed out demand on a scale of almost $10 trillion dollars – which is more than Japan’s, or China’s or Germany’s GNP – in an economy that already had too much money on the supply side already.

    This causes ‘demand’ of course to become or stay ‘soft’.

    The ‘median’ family, in order to maintain life styles has to borrow money as a bridge until things get better for them.

    But also, the ‘supply side’ family, flush with all that cash has to do something with it. Do they build a factory as Reagan said they would? No. Why? Because demand is soft. So what do they do? They lend it the ‘median’ family.

    The median family is borrowing it to maintain their life style: meaning buying school supplies and braces, and patching the house, etc… But when the bridge never makes it to the other shore, then things start to unravel.

    Concentrating wealth (and power) is like standing up in a canoe. It’s prone to sudden epic collapses.

    Now here’s the problem.

    If you are going to provide a stimulous – it has to go towards demand. And if the stimulous is less than $1 trillion dollars, it simply isn’t on a big enough scale to solve the problem.

    In short, we have to move at least $5 trillion of that money back to the supply side of the economy.

    What makes matters worse, is that the bailout isn’t pointed at the demand side, its going toward the investor side (so there’s another 3/4 of a trillion gone from the demand side of the economy). At least the bailout of the auto industry will help to continue to provide some demand in some areas of the midwest.

    It looks to me that Obama is going to be ‘a day late’ to the solution – because the solution is needed NOW. And if the solution is less than one trillion dollars, its ‘a dollar short’.

    All of this leads me to think that this “Great Recession” is going to be bigger and deeper than anyone realizes. It’s going to be on a scale so massive that it threatens global civilization the way the collapse of the Roman Empire wiped out Western civilization in Europe outside of the Balkans (by the way it was supply side economics that caused Rome to collapse as well).

    Obama may save the day. And he might even make it look easy. But I don’t think people realize just what a precipice Bush has lead us all to. I must say, this is what I have always feared from him. This is why I have been obsessed with politics since 2001 (before then, I didn’t really care that much). This is why those leaders ignored and shunned Bush – its the least they could do.

    As Josh Marshall said yesterday – the appearance of Piracy is the hallmark of great civilizations in a state of decline. Ten trillion dollars. It might already be over and we just don’t know it.

    I’ve always suspected that the United States is Rome to Europe being Greece. Rome eclipsed Greece, but Rome collapsed, and Greece throve for another 150 years, and didn’t collapse until Greece’s own aristocracy hollowed out the economy of Anatolia in the eleventh century. I can see the same pattern happening. The U.S. will collapse and Europe will still be able to straggle on.

    Anyway, just trying to get my head around the vastness of the problem and wondering what I can do about it for myself and those I care about.

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