Saturday, February 28, 2009
How the dream has gone sour for those who got rich on the back of political patronage - then lost it
THE richest man in China has ended up in police custody and other “red billionaires” have plunged into debt or political disgrace as the communist nation’s flirtation with capitalism turns sour.
Meanwhile, millions of ordinary Chinese have lost their shirts in the stock market after share prices collapsed, and at least 20m workers have lost their jobs due to the recession.
In this atmosphere, the plight of Huang Guangyu, 39, has won little public sympathy. He is still languishing in detention after three months, while investigators probe allegations of bribery and irregular share trading.
Huang was a peasant’s son who built up a successful electrical appliance chain until it had 800 stores and he had shares worth £2 billion.
On paper, he lived out the line that “to get rich is glorious”, a slogan that seduced foreign investors to pour billions into China, persuading themselves that it was not really a socialist dictatorship.
Business magazines wrote profiles lauding Huang as the paramount genius among China’s 391,000 dollar-millionaires. As usual in China, Huang’s ascent and his downfall seem to have coincided with influence wielded by powerful men inside the government bureaucracy.
“There’s a grey area between planned economy and market economy, in which government officials wield power and businessmen bribe them,” said Professor Liu Xue of Beijing University in the China Youth Daily.
Last November, Huang, his wife, and their chief financial officer disappeared into the grey zone that awaits those who lose their high-level protection – a world without lawyers, court hearings or constitutional rights. Huang’s net worth has crumbled. While he sits in detention, lawyers and accountants in Hong Kong try to save the company, whose shares remain.............
Ann Coulter Really Needs to Find Better Things to Do with Her Time | It seems someone is stalking Rush Limbaugh! Apparently Limbaugh's caretaker in Palm Beach called 911 yesterday to report that a woman had tried to sneak on to Limbaugh's property when the gates of the compound opened to let in Rush's Maybach. She's been described as white, between 30 and 40 years old, and she's reportedly driving a "new white sedan of undetermined make." Ann Coulter is a little old to match the description, yes. But Rush's new fiancée fits the bill and they do say OxyContin can impair judgment, so you may want to take that into consideration. [Page2Live
A pair of liberal groups are launching an ad campaign Friday portraying Republicans as an obstructionist party beholden to Rush Limbaugh.
The commercial, paid for by Americans United for Change and AFSCME, shows a series of GOP congressional leaders saying "no" to President Obama's stimulus plan and, more broadly, his effort to revive the economy.
"So who are Republican leaders listening to?" asks the narrator before showing an image of Limbaugh in his studio.
"I want him to fail," says the conservative talker.
The ad will air in Washington, D.C. and on national cable...
Rush Limbaugh wants America to know that there's nothing wrong with wanting President Barack Obama to fail. In fact, the conservative talk show host said Saturday, wanting the new U.S. president to fail is "nothing more than common sense."
"This notion that I want the president to fail, this shows you a sign of the problem we've got," Limbaugh said during a long speech in Washington D.C. at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which was cosponsored by a long list of organizations including AT&T, Google and The Heritage Foundation....
Thursday, February 26, 2009
O'Reilly, Miller falsely suggested Obama supported Prop 8
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller falsely suggested President Obama supported California's Proposition 8. After Miller described a call to his radio show in which the caller suggested that "had [Obama] been a California resident," he "would have voted for Proposition 8," O'Reilly stated that the caller "probably listened to The Radio Factor and then called you because we had said that." In fact, Obama opposed Proposition 8. Read More
Wash. Post, NY Times let Boehner revive small business tax falsehood
The Washington Post and The New York Times uncritically reported Rep. John Boehner's debunked suggestion that increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 would cause a large percentage of small businesses to pay higher taxes. In fact, according to the Tax Policy Center, a mere 2 percent of tax returns that reported small business income in 2007 are in the top two income tax brackets, which include all filers with taxable incomes of more than $250,000. Read More
Santelli now agrees White House's purported "veiled threat" wasn't a threat
On NBC's Today, Rick Santelli claimed that he's "not saying" that the White House is "threatening" him. However, while on The G. Gordon Liddy Show, Santelli agreed with G. Gordon Liddy's claim that Robert Gibbs made a "veiled threat" during a press briefing. Read More
Wash. Post forwards LA-Las Vegas rail line falsehood
The Washington Post advanced the falsehood that a provision in the recovery act directs that funding be provided for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, reporting that "[s]elf-described Republicans" in upstate New York were opposed to the bill because of "what they called 'pork' projects -- several mentioned a potential high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas." In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman. Read More
CNBC's Bartiromo falsely suggested Obama proposed taxing small businesses' revenue
In claiming that "small businesses ... are putting $250,000 in revenue out there, and they're going to get impacted" under President Obama's proposal to let the Bush tax cuts on wealthy taxpayers expire, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo falsely suggested that Obama has proposed taxing small business revenue. In fact, Obama has proposed raising marginal income tax rates and reducing income tax deductions for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and for couples earning more than $250,000 per year. Read More
On Today, Matalin baselessly claimed Jindal's "education reform" made Louisiana "one of the top states in the country"
Mary Matalin claimed that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal "made more progress in Louisiana in the shortest period of time in the history of the state and probably in the country. Education reform and ethics reform -- everything that put Louisiana down in scale is now one of the top states in the country." In fact, the Louisiana Department of Education noted that the 13th edition of Education Week's "series of annual report cards tracking state education policies and outcomes" found that "gains were minimal" in the state since the previous report and that "[i]n overall rank, Louisiana dropped from 21st last year to 35th this year." Read More
Scarborough baselessly claimed nations "are testing" Obama "in a way ... they wouldn't have tested Dick Cheney"
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asserted that nations "are testing" President Obama "in a way ... that they wouldn't have tested Dick Cheney," citing as examples Iran "g[etting] the uranium they need," "North Korea going ahead with this long-range missile launch," and Pakistan "strik[ing] a deal with the Taliban." But during Cheney's two terms as vice president in the Bush administration, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan each took actions similar to the ones Scarborough discussed. Read More
McCaffrey again discusses Afghan security forces without disclosing ties to company training them
On MSNBC Live, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey stated: "By the way, another question to be decided is, What are we doing in Afghanistan? Are we there to build an Afghan security force with our NATO allies and then withdraw, or are we there to fight a counterinsurgency battle in this gigantic country?" But at no point during the segment was it disclosed that McCaffrey is a member of the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company under contract to train part of the Afghan National Security Force. Read More
AP ignored Democrats' response to earmark criticism: 40% are from Republicans
The AP reported that "Republicans assailed" the omnibus bill recently passed by the House as "too costly" and quoted Republicans criticizing the bill as, in the reporter's words, "bristl[ing] with earmarks." At no point did the reporter give any indication that many of the earmarks were included at the request of Republicans. Read More
Fox News' Beck still attacking stimulus bill over things he doesn't understand
On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck again attacked the recovery act by citing a provision he did not understand. Beck stated that the final version of "[t]he spending bill, clean of earmarks, has ... $800 million for carbon capture projects." Meanwhile, on-screen text read: "$800M to Carbon Capture Project: What Is That?" Read More
Lashing out at critics, George Will spreads more falsehoods in new global warming column
In a column obtained by Media Matters in advance of its publication, George Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he "accurately reported" on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center document on sea ice data. In fact, while Will suggested the ACRC data undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, the document actually states that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models. Read More
USA Today falsely suggested that current system requires secret ballot election to form union
USA Today reported that the Employee Free Choice Act "would allow workers to form a union by gathering signed cards from a majority of employees, rather than the current method of winning a secret-ballot election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board." But the suggestion that a NLRB secret ballot election is currently required before obtaining union representation at a workplace is false. Under current law, a union that shows it has the support of a majority of workers can represent the workers if their employer voluntarily agrees to recognize the union. Read More
In an interview with U.S. News, conservative televangelist Pat Robertson decried the recently-passed economic recovery package as “a disaster,” but emphasized that he wants President Obama to succeed. “We don’t want a president who fails at domestic and foreign policy,” Robertson said, adding that he thought Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” comment was “a terrible thing to say”:
Q: So you don’t subscribe to Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” school of thought?
ROBERTSON: That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he’s the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn’t, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.
Last December, Robertson praised Obama for picking a “middle-of-the road Cabinet.” But he has since changed his tune, complaining that Obama is “showing partisanship” through his cabinet appointments.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
NY Times uncritically quoted Jindal's misrepresentation of Obama remarks
The New York Times uncritically repeated Gov. Bobby Jindal's misrepresentation of a quote from President Obama, and quoting from an advanced excerpt of Jindal's speech, wrote: " 'A few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse," ' Mr. Jindal said. 'But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her.' " In fact, Obama stated that if his economic recovery plan were not passed, "we may not be able to reverse" the current economic crisis. Read More
Confronted with the truth, Hannity refused to back down from debunked mouse, LA-Vegas rail falsehoods
On Fox News, Sean Hannity repeated the false GOP talking points that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directs that funds be spent to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco and on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, as Rep. Joe Sestak noted in response to Hannity, the bill does not contain any language directing funds to the salt marsh harvest mouse or its San Francisco wetlands habitat, nor does the bill include a provision directing that funds be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. Read More
O'Reilly latest to advance UAW pay falsehood
On his radio and television shows, Bill O'Reilly advanced the falsehood that "the average autoworker now makes 70 bucks an hour." In fact, a recent Barclays Capital analysis reportedly found that the average U.S. autoworker is paid "an average of $55 an hour in wages and benefits." Read More
Fox & Friends' Carlson allows guest to misrepresent speech to claim Obama engaged in "class warfare"
On Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson allowed Steve Adubato to misrepresent President Obama's February 24 address to Congress in order to claim that Obama engaged in "class warfare." After Adubato suggested that Obama did not refer to people who "bought houses they shouldn't have bought because they can't afford them," Carlson responded: "Good point." In fact, contrary to Adubato's suggestion, Obama did refer to people who "bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway." Read More
Politico falsely claimed that Santelli's "rant" criticized "careless banks"
The Politico falsely claimed that CNBC's Rick Santelli criticized "irresponsible behavior by careless banks" when he "rallied bail-out skeptics with an on-air rant." In fact, during his widely circulated February 19 "rant," Santelli did not mention "careless banks"; rather, he repeatedly criticized behavior by homeowners, questioning if "we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages." Read More
O'Reilly advanced falsehood that "the Democrats in charge of the finance committees" resisted regulating mortgage industry
On The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that "the Democrats in charge of the finance committees" resisted efforts by the Bush administration to regulate the mortgage industry and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in particular. In fact, it was only after the Democrats did gain control of both "finance committees" in Congress in 2007 that Congress passed legislation strengthening oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Read More
MSNBC's Brewer, Watson aired Gingrich's gratuitous Twitter attack on Pelosi
MSNBC uncritically repeated a Twitter post by Newt Gingrich in which he attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for "standing up to applaud the private jet line" in President Obama's address to Congress "while she flies around in a government jet at taxpayer expense." Gingrich has repeatedly attacked Pelosi over her use of the plane while also falsely claiming that her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, did not use one. Read More
NY Times drew false equivalence between Will and Gore
In drawing a false equivalence between a February 15 column by George Will and Al Gore's statement that global warming "is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented," New York Times reporter Andrew C. Revkin wrote that "[b]oth men, experts said afterward, were guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements." But while the major theme of Will's column -- that human-caused global warming is not occurring -- has been completely rejected by what Revkin describes as "a strong consensus among scientists," Revkin did not note that the IPCC has stated that humans "[m]ore likely than not" have contributed to an increasing likelihood that many of the types of events Gore cited will occur. Read More
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
AP falsely reported Obama called Social Security "the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far"
AP's Liz Sidoti falsely reported that at his fiscal responsibility summit, President Obama "called the long-term solvency of Social Security 'the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far.' " In fact, Obama made that comment in reference to "the rising cost of health care." Read More
On Hannity, Dietl promoted Social Security falsehood
On Hannity, Bo Dietl falsely asserted that "[t]en years from now" there will be only two workers for each Social Security beneficiary. He added, "The problem is there's going to be bankruptcy in Social Security and then the pension system." In fact, the 2008 Social Security trustee's report estimates that the ratio will fall from more than 3 workers for every beneficiary to a 2.2 ratio by 2030, not in "[t]en years." Furthermore, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2041, at which point it will be able to cover 78 percent of benefits if no legislative changes are made. Read More
Cavuto purported to "correct" Obama with corporate tax falsehood
Fox News' Neil Cavuto stated that President Obama "misstate[d]" the facts on the U.S. corporate tax rate structure, and purporting to "correct" him, claimed that the U.S. corporate tax rate is "at a high 35 percent ... the highest in the industrialized world. That is un-debatable and unequivocal." In fact, while the U.S. statutory corporate tax rate is 35 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office, "Statutory tax rates do not provide a complete measure of the burden that a tax system imposes on business income." Additionally, World Bank and GAO data indicate that the U.S. effective corporate tax rate is lower than 35 percent and lower than several developed economies.
Ignoring FDIC, ABC's Stark says bank nationalization happens "in socialist countries" and is "not supposed to happen" in the U.S.
On World News, business correspondent Betsy Stark stated: "Wall Street is the bastion of free-market capitalism, and nationalization, even if it's meant to save the banks, is something that happens in socialist countries; it's not supposed to happen in the United States." In fact, the FDIC has acted as receiver assuming all deposits for 66 failed banks since October 1, 2000. Indeed, Cato Institute senior fellow Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr. wrote, "The federal government, under the auspices of the FDIC, can be said to routinely nationalize failed banks." Read More
Wash. Times claim that Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib were "completely unrelated" contradicted by bipartisan Senate report
In an editorial, The Washington Times asserted that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo "are completely unrelated," adding that "there have never been credible allegations of Abu Ghraib-like misconduct at Guantanamo." In fact, a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that military "interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO," and that those "policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq." Read More
Updated Report: Economists comprised only 6 percent of guest appearances discussing stimulus on cable news, Sunday shows
A Media Matters review of the Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 15 found that during 203 hours of programming on Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons and evenings, only 41 of 722 total guest appearances in discussions about the economic recovery legislation and debate in Congress, were made by economists -- a mere 6 percent. The review is an update of a Media Matters study released February 11 that found that from January 25 through February 8, only 5 percent of the total guest appearances that included discussions of the recovery plan were made by economists.
Media outlets have uncritically reported Gov. Bobby Jindal's misrepresentation of a quote from President Obama. The outlets reported that according to excerpts of Jindal's response to Obama's address to Congress, Jindal would say: "A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her." In fact, Obama stated that if his economic recovery plan were not passed, "we may not be able to reverse" the current economic crisis. Read More
Republicans opposed to the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus bill fretted noisily about "spending money we don't have" and "passing a burden on to our grandchildren."
Their concern for fiscal prudence is laudable, but not credible, given the past 60 years. While Republicans had a deserved reputation for fiscal probity from Lincoln through Nixon, their contempt for balanced budgets since 1981 is at the root of our national debt problems.
In response to questions from readers about the size and history of the national debt, I made some simple tabulations. I took the gross federal debt listed in the 2009 Economic Report of the President, the last one prepared by the George W. Bush administration. To its data for 1940 through 2008, I added the Bureau of Public Debt's estimate of the debt as of Feb. 15.
I then adjusted it for inflation, using the consumer price index. (Using a different, broader index, the GDP deflator, would be slightly better, but it does not go back to 1940.) To make comparisons with current legislation simple, I converted all the figures to December 2008 dollar equivalents.
Plotted against time, it shows the national debt increased five times during World War II. Immediately after the war, austere budgets reduced it somewhat. But then there was a remarkable period, fiscal years 1948 through 1981, during which the inflation-adjusted national debt remained nearly constant. It was $2.2 trillion (in 2009 dollars) in 1948 and $2.3 trillion in 1981, 33 years later.
This spanned the administrations of four Democratic presidents - Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Carter - and three Republicans - Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for 29 of these years and Republicans for four. During this time, Congress was never split between the two parties, as it has been for 16 of the 28 years since then.
People commonly believe a free-spending Lyndon Johnson ballooned the national debt with new social programs while fighting a war in Vietnam.
Kennedy-Johnson deficits were large compared to those of Truman and Eisenhower, who had both reduced the debt in real terms. But these deficits were small enough that with prevailing price increases, the inflation-adjusted debt remained about constant.
Only four-tenths of 1 percent of our 2009 debt comes from Kennedy-Johnson era deficits. Together, Nixon and Ford contributed 3.3 percent, while Carter reduced the real debt slightly.
The big increases began with Ronald Reagan who, like Franklin Roosevelt, was elected on a platform of stopping his predecessor's reckless spending. Nearly 24 percent of our current debt comes from his presidency. George H.W. Bush contributed another 13.6 percent and Bill Clinton added 4.8 percent.
George W. Bush is the champ, however. More than 36 percent of the total came from deficits between his first budget year, fiscal 2002, and February 2009.
Remember that presidents are not dictators. They don't control taxing and spending. They can only propose legislation and then sign or veto whatever bills Congress passes.
So while the three most recent Republican presidents oversaw deficits equal to nearly 74 percent of our debt, they should not bear all the blame alone.
The larger irony is that many of the congressional Republicans most vocal in recent weeks about the perils of deficit spending were among the most enthusiastic supporters of lower taxes and higher spending since 1981. Their sudden conversion to fiscal rectitude is dramatic, but not very convincing.
Economist Edward Lotterman teaches and writes in St. Paul, Minn. Write him at email@example.com.
Monday, February 23, 2009
We hear a lot about "going green" these days. The latest to join in the trend is comet Lulin, which is making an appearance in the nighttime sky this month. Don Yeomans of JPL, manager for NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, answers a few questions about this odd comet.
Q: Why is comet Lulin green?
A: The green color arises when ionized cyanogen and carbon gases in the comet's atmosphere emit radiation in green wavelengths. These gases vaporize when the ices in the comet's nucleus get close enough to the sun.
Q: What other unusual characteristics does the comet have?
A: Comet Lulin is moving nearly in the same orbital plane around the sun as do the planets, but in the opposite (retrograde) direction. It is probably the first time this comet has entered the inner solar system, so some of its original volatile ices in its nucleus may still be present, and should be identifiable during observations.
Q: Will we be able to see comet Lulin and its greenish color? If so, where, when and how?
A: The comet should be observable in dark skies with binoculars. The best time to observe might be near its closest approach to Earth (about 38 million miles) on Tues., Feb. 24, when the comet appears just below the planet Saturn in the constellation of Leo (high in the southeast in late evening for observers in mid- northern latitudes, for example, in the United States and Europe.
Q: Will NASA astronomers be tracking the comet?
A: A small army of amateur and professional astronomers will certainly take advantage of this young comet using various telescopes and in many different wavelengths. It is not that often that a relatively bright, young comet is seen in the inner solar system, and astronomers will take advantage of this opportunity to identify some of the gases that make up its greenish atmosphere - and infer what exotic ices make up its unseen nucleus.
Friday, February 20, 2009
- Larger women loose virginity
New research has found that larger women are more likely to have lost their virginity than slimmer women
- Mums have less
Women who give birth, have less sex than before, because their libido drops
- Sloppy kisses have hidden chemicals
Men prefer sloppy kisses because the saliva contains chemicals that can trigger the release of other sex hormones
- Sexting teens charged
Three girls aged 14 and 15, have been charged with sexting their boyfriends, nude photos of themselves
- Desperate Housewives girl-girl action
Script writers of Desperate Housewives may be planning a passionate same-sex kiss between Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria Parker.
- Playboy bunnies turn-offs and turn-ons
Playboy has been asking its centerfolds their top turn-offs and turn-ons for decades. Music and arrogant people top the lists
- Intercourse or oral sex?
Three guys decide on whether to ahve intercourse or oral sex, for the rest of their lives.
- Porn is green
Making and distributing pornography is very green. Sex toys can be too
- Virginity: precious or stigma
How Canadian teens view loosing their virginity, affects who they have sex with for the first time, and whether they enjoy it
- I hate it when they steal my porn
Free amateur porn has caused a drop in adult DVD sales by 22%.
- Anal sex on the rise
Researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Rhode Island, have found that anal sex is on the rise among teens and young adults
- Octomum photos released
The woman who gave birth to eight babies, has released photos of when she was pregnant.
- Aubrey O'Day does Playboy
The singer has posed nude in Playboy magazine [Photos]
- Chinese scientists detect porn
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have designed a computer tool that can detect porn
- Men want no more sex
A poll from the Men's Health Forum has found that 15% of men say they are not interested in sex
- Simple sex advice: move
The Sex Inspectors suggest a simply way to improve you sex life: move
- Why couples argue over sex
The libido of men and women changes throughout their lifetimes, and may provide a reason for their differences in sex drive
- City: our porn is missing
Amsterdam has lots its pornography archive
- Serbian sex still taboo
Sex research around Serbia, Croatia, Israel and Turkey, has found that over half of Serbs feel that sex is still a taboo subject, and that cheating on their partner might revive their relationships
- Sex ed films through the ages
The BFI's compilation of sex education films over the decades, range from the horrifying to the explicit
- Butchering swingers relationships
The Wildcardz at gentlenibbles.com find that swingers in person are "open-minded people who looked for connections beyond that of physical attraction", unlike the online "meat market"
February 18, 2009--Light pillars scrape the night sky over Victor, Idaho, on January 26. Typically seen in polar regions, the vertical columns of light have been appearing along with frigid temperatures at lower latitudes this winter.
Light pillars appear when artificial light (shown in diagram) or natural light bounces off the facets of flat ice crystals wafting relatively close to the ground.
When the light source is close to the ground, the light pillar appears above the floating crystals. When the light comes from the sun or moon, the light pillar can appear beneath them, too, as the light refracts through the crystals........... (See a picture of another ice-crystal light phenomenon, a sun dog......)
It's one thing to accept money from a piece of legislation you campaigned strenuously against. But we're seeing more and more stories about Republicans who just got done trashing the stimulus bill in Washington and are now back in their districts taking credit for the spending programs contained in it. A lot of the stories have already been written up. But I think there are many, many more out there. So keep an eye on your local media for examples.
And remember, the criteria are pretty clear. Every House Republican voted against the bill. So any member of the House with an R after his or her name qualifies. And in the senate pretty much the same with the exception of Snowe, Collins and Specter.
Send us links or other citations. We'll apply the appropriate snark and share with the rest of the TPM readership, all culminating in a ground GOP Stimulus Hypocrimap.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
Date: February 18, 2009
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has discovered through our intelligence Monitoring Network that you are eligible to receive the sum of $7.5Million USD your impending funds, which was intercepted,has not been released to you by the Federal Ministry of financial.
Therefore, the FBI Seattle Division in conjunction with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Has screened through our various Monitoring Networks and has been confirmed and notified that the transaction you have with Central Bank of Nigeria is Legal and you have theLawful Right to claim your due fund.
Please contact the Head of Operations Dr. James Awotide,Central Bank of Nigeria.
Dr. James Awotide
Please, be advised and be aware that your funds had been insured and the necessary charges would be taken care of by you, as confirmed by the Monitoring network.
Laura M. Laughlin (Special Agent-in-Charge)
Glenn Beck falsely claimed that "the average UAW [United Auto Workers] worker" earns "[a] hundred and fifty-four dollars an hour if you look at -- you know, if you add in all of the benefits." In fact, a recent Barclays Capital analysis reportedly found that U.S. automakers "pay an average of $55 an hour in wages and benefits to hourly workers." Read More
In an article discussing whether the Environmental Protection Agency would begin to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, The New York Times quoted Jeffrey Holmstead warning that such efforts are "[p]otentially ... a huge mess." While the article mentioned that Holmstead is the "director of environmental strategies at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani," it did not note that Holmstead lobbies on behalf of energy companies and that -- as the Times previously reported -- Bracewell & Giuliani is an energy lobbying firm. Read More
In a recent article, The Washington Times falsely claimed that "[a]t least 61 ex-Guantanamo inmates have returned to terrorism, according to the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency." And CNN.com uncritically reported Rep. Lamar Smith's assertion that "at least 61" former Guantánamo detainees "have returned to terrorist activities against the U.S. and our allies." In fact, according to the Pentagon, the 61-detainee figure includes 43 former prisoners who are suspected of, but have not been confirmed as, having "return[ed] to the fight." Read More
Fox News' Greta Van Susteren did not challenge Sen. Jon Kyl's false claim that the economic recovery plan is "going to be wasting an awful lot of money, putting permanent programs in place that over a 10-year period ... are going to spend $3.27 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office." Kyl's assertion echoed the false claim in a Washington Times editorial that CBO estimated that the full cost of the bill would reach $3.2 trillion by 2019. In fact, more than half of the $3.2 trillion figure comes from the cost of permanently extending more than 20 provisions in the recovery bill, which the bill does not do.
On The O'Reilly Factor, Karl Rove falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank "was one of the more prominent opponents of [housing] reform in 2004 and 2005." In fact, Frank supported efforts to enhance regulatory oversight on mortgage brokers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2005, and he has long championed policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership. Read More
Rush Limbaugh falsely stated that President Obama said "that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes ever again," later adding, "This is what I mean by him talking down the economy." In fact, Obama said that we should "not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year" [emphasis added]. Read More
On Fox News' Glenn Beck, Tracy Byrnes baselessly asserted that Namasté Solar Electric Inc. -- the company whose president introduced President Obama at the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- has a "progressive, maybe even socialist, internal structure," and during her report, on-screen text falsely claimed that "all employees are paid the same." In fact, according to Namasté's website, "starting salary depends upon experience." Read More
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
House Republicans, as a group, may take great pride in the goose egg they offered President Obama's stimulus package. But now the unanimous opposition is struggling to bring that money home.
Republicans will be working hard to make sure the money they opposed ends up benefiting their home districts, highlighting the political tightrope they walk in this economic crisis. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is watching House Republicans -- and reading local media -- closely and is only too happy to highlight any happy talk about a stimulus Republicans voted against.
Back in his home district, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) found some nice things to say about the plan.
"Within the stimulus package there is some Pell Grant money, which is a good thing. It helps students be able to pay for their education and that's kind of a long term stimulus effect there. I mean obviously that's not gonna provide a job in the next 120, 180 days, but the ability of someone to get an education is an economic development tool," Luetkemeyer said at a local college. He was there, in another inside-outside Washington twist, to celebrate an earmark for a college building.
He lamented that there would be far fewer such earmarks in the future. "If they go back to the rules, it will make it very difficult to get earmarks through the next two years because number one we don't have any more money, we just blew it all on this stimulus package. Although, we're gonna have to print some more in order to be able to bail out the financial institutes and the automobile manufacturers," said Luetkemeyer.
Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that the quotes aren't hypocritical, but rather demonstrate that Republicans did support a stimulus in general, just not the one Democrats presented to them.
"We would like to thank the DCCC for circulating these comments. They are proof-positive that Republicans stood willing and ready to support commonsense measures in the stimulus package until Nancy Pelosi unfortunately chose to undercut President Obama's message of bipartisanship by including absurd pork-barrel spending projects such as millions to protect a mouse in the San Francisco Bay, golf carts for government bureaucrats, and STD prevention funds. Republicans said 'yes' to a true stimulus package, but unanimously said 'no' to putting the politics of pork before the needs of the middle class," said Spain.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) put out a press release saying that he "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act".........
Lou Dobbs falsely claimed, "President Obama sign[ed] a $800 billion stimulus package that we now know will come to about $3 trillion with debt servicing over the next decade," echoing a false claim in a Washington Times editorial that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the full cost of the bill would reach $3.2 trillion by 2019. In fact, more than half of of the $3.2 trillion figure comes from the cost of permanently extending more than 20 provisions in the recovery bill, which the bill does not do. Read More
On NBC's Nightly News, Lisa Myers stated of the final version of the economic recovery bill: "If the package creates or saves three and a half million jobs as predicted, it will cost a quarter of a million dollars per job." Her report echoed a claim in a January 15 press release issued by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. In fact, economists note that the figure is based on false assumptions. Read More
In recent days, Fox News hosts and contributors have advanced the false claim -- pushed by Republican lawmakers -- that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included a provision in the recovery bill directing that $8 billion be spent on a high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas. In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman. Read More
ABCNews.com's The Note and the Politico's Playbook highlighted a Washington Times article titled "Obama has new flag frenzy: White House embraces a backdrop of red, white and blue," with ABC News describing the article as a "Must-Read," and the Politico's Mike Allen writing, "Cable's gonna go cuckoo over this WashTimes A1er." The Times article, however, rehashes several false and baseless claims regarding President Obama's presidential campaign and the American flag and uncritically quotes radio host Michael Savage attacking Obama as a "Neo-Marxist" and "street agitator" to whom "our flag is just a rag." Read More
In Fox News' special, Trillion with a T, Bret Baier promoted or repeated several myths and falsehoods about President Obama and the economic recovery bill, including that some of the spending in the bill -- which Obama has now signed into law -- isn't stimulus; that the bill will lead to "the government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't"; that it would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money; that the Obama administration advocated cutting the defense budget by 10 percent; and that Obama admitted "there might be some pork" in the bill. Read More
In recent days, numerous Fox Business Network hosts, reporters, and contributors have repeatedly spread the debunked claim that the economic recovery act includes funding to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in the San Francisco wetlands. In fact, the act does not contain any language directing funds to San Francisco wetlands or the salt marsh harvest mouse living in them, a fact that the House Republican leadership aide who reportedly originated the claim has reportedly acknowledged. Read More
Howard Dean - Former Governor of Vermont and DNC Chairman
Opponents of fixing our broken health care system are at it again, attempting to use their same old scare tactics and falsehoods to kill a common-sense health care provision is the economic recovery package. Fortunately Congressional leaders have recognized these tactics for what they are and have wisely kept this provision in the legislation.
Under attack is a provision that is in the package that will help your doctor be better informed and more effective at the job they signed up to do in the first place - taking care of you and your family.
Comparative Effectiveness Research:
At issue is something called "Comparative Effectiveness Research" which basically means giving your doctor access to the latest research on what treatments and therapies work and which don't. This also helps doctors know which treatments are more expensive than others, and helps both patients and doctors decide if there is a cheaper treatment that is just as effective. As a doctor and the husband of a doctor, I know how important it is to have solid scientific research to make critical decisions for my patients.
This research will help doctors choose the best treatment for their patients' situation and help them make more informed choices rather than risk prescribing less effective or even potentially harmful treatments.
Essentially, in order to control costs and provide patients with better care as we reform health care, the Federal Government will fund and disseminate research that evaluates the effectiveness of different treatments and medicines. This research will give doctors and patients better choices, and most importantly better health care for their money.
This is a common sense idea that should have been put in place a long ago.
When I was practicing medicine, having greater access to scientific evidenced-based research would have been truly helpful in guiding me to make the best medical decisions for my patients.
If an inexpensive pill that has been around a long time works substantially better than a brand new, highly-advertised and thus far more expensive pill - doctors should have that information at hand when we prescribe medications to our patients. When I do something for a patient, I want the scientific research that tells me its the best course for my patient. But the far right, led by people like Rush Limabaugh, hopes to somehow convince Americans that more and better research is a bad thing.
Medicine is and should always be science based - not driven by ideology.
Mr. Limbaugh and his cohorts would have you believe that this research will be used to deny needed care to your great Aunt May and be run by the politburo. But the Bill passed by Congress states right up front that the Government can not make coverage decisions based on this research.
I was surprised to see Senator Coburn (R-Ok) who is also a doctor make a statement against medical research which in part stated "this bill lays the groundwork for a Soviet-style Federal Health Board that will put bureaucrats and politicians in charge of our nation's health care system." Sadly, it seems that Senator Coburn has his political hat on and not his white coat when he relies on Rush Limbaugh to "help" his patients.
This claptrap is really about the far right laying the ground work for a far greater and more sustained attack on the Democrats' attempt to fix our health care system. As we move forward with the American people to finally fulfill the promise of Harry Truman, who over sixty years ago suggested that every American ought to have a reasonable health care plan, we will rely on the voters to remind the right wing that change is what we promised, and change is what we will deliver.
Their opposition is about politics at its worst and their desire to make sure that the new administration and the Congress do not get a "win"
In these rough economic times, we have got to do better than the same old scare tactics and games for political gains. It's time to fix our health care system and it's time for common sense and honesty.
Echoing a GOP press release, The Washington Times asserted of the economic recovery bill: "[A]t [the Congressional Budget Office's] best-case scenario of 3.6 million extra jobs at its peak in 2010, that works out to nearly $220,000 per job." However, this claim disregards tangible benefits of the stimulus package besides job creation, and economists have estimated that given predicted economic growth the actual cost per job is less than $70,000. Read More
A Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that the Congressional Budget Office "estimated that the full cost of [the economic recovery] bill ... will reach $3.2 trillion by 2019." In fact, more than half of that $3.2 trillion figure comes from the cost of permanently extending more than 20 provisions in the recovery bill, which the bill does not do, as CBO director Douglas Elmendorf has noted. Read More
In his Washington Times column, Tony Blankley wrote: "After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration rolled back very few civil liberties. Aside from establishing a regime for handling captured foreign terrorists, the curtailments largely consisted of common-sense enhancements in the power of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorism suspects and access their personal records." Contrary to Blankley's suggestion, Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was held without charges for more than three years. Read More
The AP reported that Heartland Institute publisher Dan Williams "said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming" and that former Sen. Harrison Schmitt "said he's heartened that the upcoming [Heartland] conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics." But at no point in the article did the AP note that Heartland receives funding from the fossil fuels industry. Moreover, the AP uncritically reported that Schmitt "said ... the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoing a claim widely disputed by scientists. Read More
Since Congress passed President Obama's economic recovery bill, several media figures have warned that Obama could suffer political consequences if the nation's economy does not improve substantially in a short amount of time. But Obama has consistently emphasized the long-term nature of economic recovery, repeatedly stating that the recovery "will likely be measured in terms of years and not months." Read More
Sunday, February 15, 2009
February 16, 2009 - Roadblock Party Edition
This week the National Republican Senatorial Committee (1) takes top honors with its ongoing effort to prevent Minnesota from having two Senators. Elsewhere, The National Republican Trust PAC (3) is threatening to drive the final nail into the GOP's coffin, John McCain (6) is desperately trying to remain relevant, and The RNC (9) still isn't funny.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
On Hardball, Chris Matthews did not challenge Sen. Susan Collins' claim that the economic recovery bill included "spending that had nothing to do with creating jobs, turning our economy around, or providing relief to the American taxpayers." In fact, in its analysis of the House and Senate versions of the bill, the Congressional Budget Office stated that it expects both measures to "have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years." Read More
A Wall Street Journal editorial falsely suggested that, unlike President Obama, former President Bush never used "a list of reporters preselected to ask questions" when deciding who to call on at presidential press conferences. In fact, Bush also used such a list, as former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in a March 2003 press briefing. Read More
During appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and Glenn Beck, Dobbs and Beck allowed Betsy McCaughey to advance the false claim that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to control health care. In fact, the provisions she cited address establishing an electronic records system in part for the purpose of "reduc[ing] health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information." It does not say that the federal government will determine what constitutes "unnecessary care." Read More
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly claimed that President Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for ending the recession in the early 1980s, suggesting that tax cuts, and not government spending, would be the best solution to the end the current recession. However, several economists have stated that while fiscal policy had some impact during that period, "[l]ower interest rates after mid-1982 permitted the recovery to begin," according to a 1983 CBO report. By contrast, a reduction in the federal funds interest rate is not available to the Federal Reserve today because the current rate is essentially zero. Read More
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a homeless woman at President Obama's Fort Myers town hall event asked Obama for a "car" and "a new kitchen." In fact, Henrietta Hughes was simply saying that she needs housing. She stated: "[W]e need something more than a vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help." Read More
NBC News' John Yang baselessly suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rushing an agreement on the economic recovery bill because she "has a congressional delegation trip to Italy scheduled to leave on Friday, and of course, the speaker's maiden name is D'Alesandro, and she would dearly love not to miss that trip." In fact, Pelosi has said, "If we don't have [a bill] by the time of the Presidents recess, there will be no recess." Read More
A Wall Street Journal article mischaracterized a section of H.R. 1, stating: "In a staff report describing the bill, the House said treatments found to be less effective and in some cases more expensive 'will no longer be prescribed.' " However, neither the House discussion draft nor the House bill implements federal requirements banning the use of "treatments found to be less effective and in some cases more expensive." In fact, the section of the bill the article referenced establishes a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and calls for funding to "be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies." Read More
A Media Matters study of Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 8 found that few economists have been given time on television to talk about the economic recovery plan. During 139 1/2 hours of programming in which the economic recovery legislation was discussed, economists made 25 guest appearances out of a total of 460 -- only 5 percent. Read More
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Rush Limbaugh repeated a falsehood in a Bloomberg "commentary" by Betsy McCaughey that claimed that under a provision in the House-passed economic recovery bill, "[o]ne new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and 'guide' your doctor's decisions." In fact, the provisions McCaughey referenced address establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care." Read More
On Fox News' On the Record, Sean Hannity falsely identified "a Frisbee golf course" as an example of an earmark in the economic recovery bill. In fact, there is no earmark for "a Frisbee golf course" in either the House or Senate version of the bill, which both specifically prohibit using funds in the bill for a "golf course." The Senate version also prohibits using funds for a "community park."Read More
In purporting to "take a look back" at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew," Fox News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release. Read More
A New York Times essay by Jason DeParle highlighted a resurgence of the use of the word "welfare" among conservatives, this time to attack President Obama's economy recovery plan. Indeed, while economists agree that provisions in the legislation targeting needy people are among the most economically stimulative, Media Matters documents below the pervasiveness of what DeParle called the "weaponiz[ation]" of the "very word, welfare," in the media, particularly, but not exclusively on Fox News, to denounce the stimulus bill. Read More
The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore and Fox News anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly promoted the falsehood -- which first appeared in a Bloomberg "commentary" by Betsy McCaughey and was subsequently promoted by Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge -- that the economic recovery bill includes a provision that would, in Moore's words, "hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments." Limbaugh later took credit for spreading this story. Read More
Monday, February 09, 2009
A Washington Times "analysis," promoted by the Drudge Report and ABCNews.com's The Note, quoted only Republicans to make the claim that President Obama's purported language of "doom" regarding the economy has been deemed "not presidential." Read More
In a fundraising email "[p]aid for by The National Republican Trust PAC," Dick Morris claimed that "the Democrats want to give almost $5 billion to groups like ACORN" in the recovery bill. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds and has no plans to apply for them. Read More
The Washington Post uncritically reported RNC chairman Michael Steele's statement that "government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job." In fact, about 15 percent of the labor force is employed by federal, state, or local government, and Steele himself has acknowledged that funds included in the recovery bill for school construction will create jobs "[f]or a short term, yes. It's a construction job." Read More
Several news outlets have uncritically quoted Republican senators criticizing the economic recovery plan supported by Senate Democrats as not being "timely, targeted and temporary" but did not point out that those Republicans voted in support of a proposed amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would replace the stimulus bill entirely with permanent tax cuts, some of which DeMint referred to as "broad based." Read More
In a Washington Post column, Warren Brown claimed that "there has been no gasoline saved in response to ... the various iterations of federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] rules." However, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report stated: "According to estimates by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and other experts we consulted, the CAFE program has helped save billions of barrels of oil and could continue to do so in the future." Read More
Saturday, February 07, 2009
On any given day during the current congressional debate over the economic recovery plan, chances are good that Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity will say something false about the administration's or congressional Democrats' efforts to pass a bill. And they do not promote these falsehoods in isolation; they are often promoted concurrently with each other and with Republican members of Congress. President Obama reportedly chastised congressional Republicans for "listen[ing] to Rush Limbaugh," and, as Media Matters for America has pointed out, Limbaugh has also demonstrated a proclivity for listening to -- and parroting -- congressional Republicans.
For his part, in consecutive shows on January 30 and February 2, Hannity hosted Sens. Mitch McConnell, Tom Coburn and John McCain on his radio show, and on February 4 he hosted Rep. Mike Pence on Fox News. As a result, Hannity and Limbaugh have created an echo chamber of Republican talking points and misinformation criticizing the economic recovery plan. And given the acknowledgment by some national journalists that they pay attention to Limbaugh and Hannity, it follows that they care what the two are saying about the stimulus -- CNBC anchor Erin Burnett said as much about Limbaugh, touting his op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on that topic as "serious." Read More
NY Times reported claim that 61 Guantánamo detainees have "returned to the fight" without noting DOD made different claim in January
In a February 7 article, The New York Times reported that Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell "put the number at 61" of former Guantánamo detainees who have "returned to the fight." But the article did not note that Morrell has previously stated that there are only 18 detainees confirmed to have "returned to the fight," with another 43 suspected of having done so. Nor did the Times indicate whether Morrell has stated that DOD has subsequently confirmed that more than 18 detainees have "returned to the fight." Read More
SOMEDAY historians may look back at Tom Daschle’s flameout as a minor one-car (and chauffeur) accident. But that will depend on whether or not it’s followed by a multi-vehicle pileup that still could come. Even as President Obama refreshingly took responsibility for having “screwed up,” it’s not clear that he fully understands the huge forces that hit his young administration last week.
The tsunami of populist rage coursing through America is bigger than Daschle’s overdue tax bill, bigger than John Thain’s trash can, bigger than any bailed-out C.E.O.’s bonus. It’s even bigger than the Obama phenomenon itself. It could maim the president’s best-laid plans and what remains of our economy if he doesn’t get in front of the mounting public anger.
Like nearly everyone else in Washington, Obama was blindsided by the savagery and speed of Daschle’s demise. Conventional wisdom had him surviving the storm. Such is the city’s culture that not a single Republican or Democratic senator called for his withdrawal until the morning of his exit. Membership in the exclusive Senate club, after all, has its privileges. Among Daschle’s more vocal defenders was Bob Dole, who had recruited him to Alston & Bird, the law and lobbying firm where Dole has served as “special counsel” when not otherwise cashing in on his own Senate years by serving as a pitchman for Pepsi and Viagra.
In New York, editorial pages on both ends of the political spectrum, The Wall Street Journal and The Times, called for Daschle to step down. But not The Washington Post. In a frank expression of the capital’s isolation from the country, it thought Daschle could still soldier on even though “ordinary Americans who pay their taxes may well wonder why Mr. Obama can’t find cabinet secretaries who do the same.”
As Jon Stewart might say, oh those pesky ordinary Americans!
In reality, Daschle’s tax shortfall, an apparently honest mistake, was only a red flag for the larger syndrome that much of Washington still doesn’t get. It was the source, not the amount, of his unreported income that did him in. The car and driver advertised his post-Senate immersion in the greedy bipartisan culture of entitlement and crony capitalism that both helped create our economic meltdown (on Wall Street) and failed to police it (in Washington). Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he’d have to adjudicate as health czar.
Few articulate this ethical morass better than Obama, who has repeatedly vowed to “close the revolving door” between business and government and end our “two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks.” But his tough new restrictions on lobbyists (already compromised by inexplicable exceptions) and porous plan for salary caps on bailed-out bankers are only a down payment on this promise, even if they are strictly enforced.
The new president who vowed to change Washington’s culture will have to fight much harder to keep from being co-opted by it instead. There are simply too many major players in the Obama team who are either alumni of the financial bubble’s insiders’ club or of the somnambulant governmental establishment that presided over the catastrophe.
This includes Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary. Washington hands repeatedly observe how “lucky” Geithner was to be the first cabinet nominee with an I.R.S. problem, not the second, and therefore get confirmed by Congress while the getting was good. Whether or not this is “lucky” for him, it is hardly lucky for Obama. Geithner should have left ahead of Daschle.
Now more than ever, the president must inspire confidence and stave off panic. As Friday’s new unemployment figures showed, the economy kept plummeting while Congress postured. Though Obama is a genius at building public support, he is not Jesus and he can’t do it all alone. On Monday, it’s Geithner who will unveil the thorniest piece of the economic recovery plan to date — phase two of a bank rescue. The public face of this inevitably controversial package is now best known as the guy who escaped the tax reckoning that brought Daschle down.
Even before the revelation of his tax delinquency, the new Treasury secretary was a dubious choice to make this pitch. Geithner was present at the creation of the first, ineffectual and opaque bank bailout — TARP, today the most radioactive acronym in American politics. Now the double standard that allowed him to wriggle out of his tax mess is a metaphor for the double standard of the policy he must sell: Most “ordinary Americans” still don’t understand why banks got billions while nothing was done (and still isn’t being done) to bail out those who lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.
As with Daschle, the political problems caused by Geithner’s tax infraction are secondary to the larger questions raised by his past interaction with the corporations now under his purview. To his credit, Geithner, like Obama, has devoted his career to public service, not buckraking. But he still has not satisfactorily explained why, as president of the New York Fed, he failed in his oversight of the teetering Wall Street institutions.
Nor has he told us why, in his first major move in his new job, he secured a waiver from Obama to hire a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as his chief of staff. Nor, in his confirmation hearings, did he prove any more credible than the Bush Treasury secretary, the Goldman Sachs alumnus Hank Paulson, in explaining why Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail while A.I.G. and Citigroup were spared.
Citigroup had one highly visible asset that Lehman did not: Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who sat passively (though lucratively) in its executive suite as Citi gorged on reckless risk. Geithner, as a Rubin protégé from the Clinton years, might have recused himself from rescuing Citi, which so far has devoured $45 billion in bailout money.
Key players in the Obama economic team beyond Geithner are also tied to Rubin or Citigroup or both, from Larry Summers, the administration’s top economic adviser, to Gary Gensler, the newly named nominee to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Back then, Summers and Gensler joined hands with Phil Gramm to ward off regulation of the derivative markets that have since brought the banking system to ruin. We must take it on faith that they have subsequently had judgment transplants.
Obama’s brilliant appointees, we keep being told, are irreplaceable. But as de Gaulle said, “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.” You have to wonder if this team is really a meritocracy or merely a stacked deck. Not only did Rubin himself serve on the Obama economic transition team, but two of the transition’s headhunters were Michael Froman, Rubin’s chief of staff at Treasury and later a Citigroup executive, and James S. Rubin, an investor who is Robert Rubin’s son.
A welcome outlier to this club is Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman chosen to direct Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. But Bloomberg reported last week that Summers is already freezing Volcker out of many of his deliberations on economic policy. This sounds like the arrogant Summers who was fired as president of Harvard, not the chastened new Summers advertised at the time of his appointment. A team of rivals is not his thing.
Americans have had enough of such arrogance, whether in the public or private sectors, whether Democrat or Republican. Voters turned on Sarah Palin not just because of her manifest unfitness for office but because her claims of being a regular hockey mom were contradicted by her Evita shopping sprees. John McCain’s sanctification of Joe the Plumber (himself a tax delinquent) never could be squared with his inability to remember how many houses he owned. A graphic act of entitlement also stripped naked that faux populist John Edwards.
The public’s revulsion isn’t mindless class hatred. As Obama said on Wednesday of his fellow citizens: “We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success.” But we do know that the system has been fixed for too long. The gaping income inequality of the past decade — the top 1 percent of America’s earners received more than 20 percent of the total national income — has not been seen since the run-up to the Great Depression.
This is why “Slumdog Millionaire,” which pits a hard-working young man in Mumbai against a corrupt nexus of money and privilege, has become America’s movie of the year. As Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary, wrote after Daschle’s fall, Americans “resent people who appear to be living high off a system dominated by insiders with the right connections.”
The neo-Hoover Republicans in Congress, who think government can put Americans back to work with corporate tax cuts but without any “spending,” are tone deaf to this rage. Obama is not. It’s a good thing he’s getting out of Washington this week to barnstorm the country about the crisis at hand. Once back home, he’s got to make certain that the insiders in his own White House know who’s the boss.