Morning Must Reads: April 23

In the news: GWB, natural gas, poached jobs, Henry Kissinger, and Chechens

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

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ajain31
ajain31

The economic legacy of George W. Bush can only be measured in trillions of dollars—in fact many trillions. And it's all waste and loss.

President George W. Bush's First Legacy: The Mountain of Debt

During Bush's two terms in office more than $3 trillion has been poured down the black hole of wars in Iraq and the Middle East. More than $5 trillion has been served up in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest 10 percent households in the U.S.

According to U.S. Federal Reserve Bank data, since Bush assumed office in January 2001 government debt levels have risen by more than $3 trillion—the total as of the end of March 2008. It does not yet include the cost of bank bailouts this past September: $300 billion for Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, $85 billion for the insurance company giant AIG, and the infamous $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bailout at the close of September amounting to another minimum $1.085 trillion.

President George W. Bush's Second Legacy: System Collapse

The unwinding of the $21 trillion in net debt accumulated during the Bush administration is the root cause of the current financial crisis.

The write-downs and write-offs by banks and other financial institutions, the bankruptcies by companies and consumers, the losses of home values, the foreclosures, etc.—all represent the "unwinding" of that record level of $21 trillion new debt. The September bank bailouts represent an effort by finance capital and America's corporate elite to shift a major portion of this debt from their corporate balance sheets to the public balance sheet and taxpayer.

The bank bailouts will not stop the debt unwinding as they do not address the fundamental causes of the housing and commercial property price collapse underway since the beginning of the year and now accelerating. The only thing settled by the bailouts—TARP, Fannie Mae, AIG, and others—is who will pay for the crisis, not how to end the crisis.

President George W. Bush's Third Legacy: Epic Recession

The direct consequence of financial crisis and implosion is a general credit crunch—a system-wide sharp contraction of credit. A credit contraction has been progressively growing in the economy since last January. A credit contraction occurs when banks and financial institutions have, or expect to have, significant losses due to bad loans and investments and are increasingly reluctant to loan out reserves they may have on hand. They may need the cash on hand and reserves to cover anticipated losses and prevent becoming technically bankrupt if their losses exceed their reserves. Over the past year financial institutions have tightened their lending terms. But even the slow down in lending hit a wall and entered a new, more intense and serious stage with the financial events of September.

From housing and commercial property markets to industrial loans to municipal and corporate bonds to commercial paper and even markets in which banks loan to each other, all began to shut down in September. There is no inter-bank lending market at present in the U.S. or even globally for that matter. They have shut down. The Fed and other central banks have become, in effect, the only banks willing to lend to other banks. Even money markets are contracting. Money market funds, mutual funds, pension funds, and hedge funds are all in the process of contracting and reducing lending.

President George W. Bush's Fourth Legacy: Record Budget Deficits

With bailouts, with expected losses in tax revenues in 2009 due to the now deepening recession, and with the certain need for further fiscal stimulus by the federal government to save state and local governments from bankruptcy and provide unemployment insurance for the millions more jobless to come, the next U.S. budget deficit will easily double from its current projected level of around $500 billion. (Yes, that's another $1 trillion.) A mind-boggling trillion dollar budget deficit will all but ensure that whoever wins the November 2008 election, few if any of their campaign promises or programs will see implementation. Instead, a national economic austerity program will likely be the agenda come January 2009. Critical programs like health care reform, student loans, sustainable environment, jobs creation and protection, foreclosure mortgage relief, retirement systems reform, etc., will likely all be sidelined more or less permanently.

The massive budget deficit is the consequence thus far of three primary causes: the $3 trillion Mideast wars, the $5 trillion tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and now more recently the multi-trillion, still rising bailouts of finance capital at taxpayer expense. The fourth is the deepening recession itself, which will result in a major shortfall of tax revenues to the federal government. The fifth is the need for the federal government to spend significantly more in order to stimulate recovery from the downturn.

outsider
outsider

Are Republicans even trying? There’s good evidence to suggest they are not.

While I’ve been saying that the GOP is broken and hopelessly dysfunctional, Rachel Maddow has come up with a new name for part of that dysfunction: Republicans are “post-policy.” To some extent, that’s because they’ll simply oppose whatever Barack Obama proposes, but there’s also an even more interesting aspect of it that they simply have given up on and lost the capacity for developing policy ideas.

And, no, it’s not just because they are conservatives and conservatives are inherently less likely to have policy ideas. A look at the evidence will demonstrate this.

Here’s the story: Over the last couple of decades, majority parties in the House of Representatives have taken to reserving the very first bill numbers for their party’s agenda. Normally, bills are just numbered in order, when they are introduced: H.R. 637 is usually the bill introduced just after H.R. 636 and just before H.R. 638. But that’s just custom, and at some point a new custom evolved to save H.R. 1 through H.R. 5, and then through H.R. 10, for important party agenda bills.

Which leads to the embarrassing fact that no one seems to have noticed about this year’s House Republicans. Over 100 days into the current Congress, their agenda is … almost completely empty.

In fact, of the 10 reserved slots, there’s only one bill filed. That’s H.R. 3, a bill to force the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Even that is pretty minimal – it’s far more of a symbolic position than it is an energy policy. And even that took until March 15 to introduce. But at least it’s a real bill, and to their credit it is a substantive measure, even if it’s not an overall energy policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have announced that H.R. 1 is reserved for a tax reform bill. There is, however, no bill, at least not so far.

For the rest of them, and for that matter for H.R. 1, nothing. All you get is “Reserved for the Speaker.”

That’s pathetic. It wasn’t true two years ago, when the new Republican majority took over in 2009. By the end of the 112thCongress, which was hardly a high achiever, Republicans had filed bills for nine of the 10 reserved spots. H.R. 1 that year was for continuing appropriations, and was filed on Feb. 11. H.R. 2 was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and was introduced on Jan. 5. In fact, by April 2011, eight of the 10 bills had been dropped into the hopper.


http://www.salon.com/2013/04/23/gop_quits_public_policy/

outsider
outsider

The GOP’s new plan: Hit Dems from the left On Social Security and now immigration, House GOPers are trying (and failing) to sneak up on Democrats' left flank              
  Earlier this month, while progressive groups were slamming President Obama from the left on his decision to include a cut to Social Security benefits in his budget, the man responsible for getting Republicans elected to Congress…also hit Obama from the left. The move was surprising, considering that the vast majority of Republicans disagreed with Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and John Bohner even said said so publicly.

Walden’s move was understandable, though. He’s in a bit of a predicament: One one hand, Republicans want to reform (i.e. cut) entitlement programs, but on the hand, Walden needs to get Republicans elected to Congress and the public hates the idea of cutting Social Security. What’s an NRCC chairman to do? Go with the poll numbers, and forget your party, apparently.

So now, the NRCC is trying the trick again, but this time on immigration — another issue where hardliners in the GOP are out of step with the public. A website the committee set up to attack Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff jabs him for “lik[ing] to waste taxpayer dollars almost as much as he likes the strictest immigration laws in the nation he passed as Speaker of the Colorado House.”

Indeed, Romanoff helped pass “several bills that Democrats call the toughest in the nation,” as the AP reported at the time. But the NRCC hit runs into trouble once you finish reading that sentence from the AP: “…and Republicans say don’t go far enough.” Even though the state’s Republican governor signed the bill, “Republicans said the legislation still left glaring loopholes, including allowing benefits for minors.” And this was 2006, long before Arizona’s SB-1070 and its copy-cat laws in Alabama, South Carolina and elsewhere. Since then, the GOP moved further to right on immigration while Romanoff moved left, even earning jabs for flip flopping.

And if the NRCC is attacking Romanoff for being too conservative on immigration, their guy is presumably more liberal on this issue, right? As it turns out, Rep. Mike Coffman, current occupant of the suburban-Denver seat, is no Marco Rubio.        
http://www.salon.com/2013/04/23/the_gops_new_plan_hit_dems_from_the_left/

outsider
outsider

WASHINGTON -- George Will is a thoughtful guy, but he and other conservatives are wrong to accuse President Barack Obama of manipulating sequestration to make its cuts more dire and dramatic.

If you read the relevant laws and the sober-minded technical analyses, you know that it is Congress, starting in 1985, that spelled out the straitjacketed process that the president and his administration have no choice but to follow now.

The sequester does not require the administration to cut roughly 8.4 percent across the board. It demands 8.4 percent from each of hundreds of domestic "budget accounts," and 8.4 percent from each of the "programs, payments and activities" within them. The budget cutters can't legally switch one into another.

So for all you Dittoheads who think Obama is personally making you languish in a Transportation Security Administration line at the airport: It's not his fault. Blame congressional negotiators who failed to find a less draconian way to reduce the federal debt by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/sequestration-playing-politics_n_3140300.html



DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

Ricin suspect freed, marshals say; attorney says he was set up

The Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and other officials has been released from federal custody, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said Tuesday.

Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi, was charged with sending a threat to the president last week after letters containing the poison triggered security scares around Washington. But a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled to continue on Tuesday was canceled and Curtis was released.

There is a bond attached to his release, but the conditions of the bond are under seal at this point, said Curtis' attorney, Christi McCoy. She said her client has been framed by someone who used several phrases Curtis likes to use on social media.

"I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him," McCoy told CNN. "It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this."

It was the one-armed Elvis impersonator.

Sue_N
Sue_N

So the Elvis impersonator is innocent, and the accused child molester is under investigation.

WTF, Mississippi?

bobcn
bobcn

@Ivy_B

Rand Paul:

Seven Weeks Ago"I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court."

Now - "I've never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him."


Sue_N
Sue_N

Also, how does Cavuto not know we have thermal imaging technology? How stupid are these people?

sacredh
sacredh

I hate to say it Ivy_B, but I'm really hoping Rand Paul runs and lasts well into the 2016 GOP primary season. He should be able to do some major damage to their real candidate.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Good God, these idiots don't even have the courage of their convictions.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Gee, I never would have seen that coming.

/snark

Tero
Tero

@outsider2011 

Hmm "post-policy"? That is a perfect term for the current manifestation of the GOP. Maddow is a genius.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@outsider2011

Righties' efforts to lean left are like their attempts at humor and compassion. Paraphrasing Julia Roberts and Erin Brockovich, they suck at it. Anyone self-aware on the Left and Center can spot them out. Did Rusty once really impersonate a woman here in an alter-ego profile?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@outsider2011 And now Reid is offering to fund the sequestration cuts for several more months using the saved money from overseas that the GOP has insisted may only be used to reduce the deficit. What a swell idea. Just as the pain is beginning to be noticed, let's relieve it so we can start again later.

sacredh
sacredh

outsider2011, because there is a hiring freeze and we're shorthanded, I'm making 1k for every 24 hours of OT that I work. An entry level person would make $1200 every two weeks for 80 hours of work.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@DonQuixotic 

Explains one thing that never made sense: if you're going to kill the President, why sign your name?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Sue_N And as we all know by now, it's even in police helicopters. To respond to your rhetorical question - unbelievably stupid!

sacredh
sacredh

"How stupid are these people?"

If brains were dynamite, they couldn't blow out a candle?

outsider
outsider

The filibuster served its real purpose (publicity) - so why bother to hold that position any longer?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@deconstructiva @outsider2011 I thought I might have it somewhere, but didn't keep it. It was an account he made up in Disqus using a fake Facebook profile!

TyPollard
TyPollard

@Sue_N 

Yes, Thank you Mississippi, a state to make all other states feel superior.


Sue_N
Sue_N

Hey, we're a lot of things down here, but we're not Mississippi.

Yet ...

outsider
outsider

I swear, its like he is a republican. Filibuster reform! No. Gun control! No. Feel the pain of the cuts the gop wanted? No.

Honestly, which party does he belong to, again?

sacredh
sacredh

I had one cortisone shot in my left elbow several years ago for bursitis and it only lasted 2 days. This has been over 2 weeks for the knee. I'm doing strengthening exercises that seem to be helping too.

OT, but we were all joking around this morning when the daylight crew was coming in. There's one guy at work that is even more laid back than I am. He very seldom swears. I bet one of the other guys $20 that I could get him to say "FY" within 5 minutes after he walked in the door. The other guy laid down a couple of conditions and I agreed to them. When the guy walked in I held out a $5 bill and said "I'll give you $5 to say FY". He said "FY", took my fiver and went into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Too easy.

La_Randy
La_Randy

@sacredh The cortisone always makes the pain go away for a while, but the underlying damage always crops back up later.

From somebody who has had too many cortisone shots to remember.

sacredh
sacredh

The kid's dad was a big shot in the district before he retired in January. I'd known his dad for 25 years. His dad asked my boss to let me train him.

outsider
outsider

@sacredh 


Just be careful he doesn't go work at another base and you lose him, like you did the last guy you trained, bud

sacredh
sacredh

outsider2011, we're getting a new guy in early June and I'm going to be giving him a good bit of his training. My boss told me to make an effort to at least appear like a normal person for the first couple of weeks. He said he would consider it a personal favor.

sacredh
sacredh

deconstructiva, I'm the boss on my shift so I get to decide what I do. My boss also told me (every few days) to let the younger guys do the heavy work. The guy I'm getting in June is in his 30's and has already told me what I am and am not allowed to do. Lol. He's a trip.

sacredh
sacredh

It hasn't felt this good in 4 years. The cortisone really worked well. The exercises seem to be strengthening the ligaments too. I also got a better brace that is an improvement.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@sacredh 

OT always great but don't make your leg pay for it. Make others do the heavy lifting (literally).

sacredh
sacredh

I don't mind working OT because the money is so good. I cancelled my vacation next week and one in June to help out. Starting in October, I have to take a week off for every two that I work. I've also got some time off awards that I have to schedule lateer this fall. It's crazy.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Where'd the ricin come from then??