Good Politics On The Stimulus Means Good Policy

I am not enamored of the stimulus plan that passed the House because I think it is entirely too timid for the problems we face. In addition, it does not a thing for the housing crisis. For that reason, I think it is bad politics. Because for all the caterwauling, including from me, about Obama's post-partisan unity schtick, as in most cases, the politics of the stimulus plan will be determined by the results of the policy.

It is for that reason that I find Andrew Sullivan's analysis perplexing. First, Sullivan says he opposes the bill. But not 15 minutes later, he excoriates the House GOP for voting against the bill:

Obama's public and sincere attempt to win many over, his early inclusion of more tax cuts than many Democrats wanted, his outreach to the House GOP, which Bush merely dictated to: these are all good things. More to the point: the public will see them as good things. Obama seems like the reasonable future at this point. The GOP seems like a very ideological past.

But one fears that the logic of the election means that many Republicans who might otherwise have been open to a real compromise - or at least less partisan rhetoric - are no longer in the Congress. The remaining rump will seek ideological purity and attack the president from the get-go. Having ransacked the Treasury for eight years, I guess they have to earn back their fiscal cred somehow.

Of course the public will judge the efficacy of the stimulus plan, not the political theatre of the past few days. But here's my question, if House Republicans really disagree with the bill, what is the principle that necessitates their voting for it? I mean Sullivan himself says he would not vote for it. In heaven's name, how can he then criticize House Republicans for voting against it?

This is the triumph of style over substance and it is precisely the cancer that plagues the Beltway. And the question is has it infected Obama too? Will he, for the sake of political style, offer even more concessions to the Republicans even if he believes such concessions will weaken the efficacy of his plan? This remains an open question.

Speaking for me only

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    again (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:00:00 AM EST
    the media focus is now on the politics - did Obama truly act bipartisan or not?  That is a lot of air-time on the part of the Obama team devoted to utter crap that doesn't matter - and yes they fed into it by publicizing their cocktail party and visit to the Capitol.  The same air-time could be used to push the bill hard, do a little econ 101 to get some support for it.

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the focus is on bipartisanship.  Who knows, maybe it serves as a distraction from the serious crisis we have on our hands.

    I'll quote from Kevin Drum:

    Here, too, Obama starts on favorable ground. After eight years of Bush/Cheney, the public is increasingly ready for serious action on a raft of big issues. And Obama is, of course, a terrific public speaker. But watching him in action for the past year, one thing has become more and more clear: He doesn't seem inclined to use his oratorical skill to truly shape public opinion. He's only using it to win votes.

    Franklin Roosevelt, that most subtle thermometer of public opinion, understood the difference. In a possibly apocryphal story told by I.F. Stone, FDR once met with a group of reformers who explained at length why he should support their cause. "Okay, you've convinced me," he told them. "Now go on out and bring pressure on me."

    FDR--even with huge congressional majorities and a solid electoral coalition--knew he needed outside help to shift the electorate. But he knew how to do his part as well. His early fireside chats weren't just national pick-me-ups; they were designed from the first word of the first sentence to build public support for liberal ideas. Likewise, years later, when he was trying to persuade an isolationist American public to actively oppose the Nazi occupation of Europe, he gave a folksy speech comparing Lend-Lease with the loan of a garden hose to a neighbor whose house was on fire. It worked: With the public on board, Congress passed the enabling legislation and Britain survived long enough for America to join the war. Majorities may come and go, but FDR built a liberal legacy that outlasted him because, by the time he left office, the public believed in the New Deal and everything that went with it.  [emphasis supplied]


    Maybe Obama will get there. After all, FDR himself ran a notably fuzzy campaign in 1932, becoming the master of public opinion only after he was safely elected. But one way or another, Obama needs to make the transition from inspiration to leadership. In politics, public opinion is at the root of every enduring movement. It's time for him to get working on it.  [emphasis supplied]

    Youtube chats don't cut it.  Obama has been openly courting Republicans, but I don't see how he has truly been courting the American people - how he is shaping this bill through public opinion.  Public opinion from what I can see is, "holy sh*t, people are selling their homes on ebay, jobs are being lost, I don't know what will happen to me."  Not "god I am so tired of divisive politics on the Hill."

    Yes, the media is inane, and will always cover these Republican - Democratic spats.  But Obama needs to realize that and go beyond that to summon public opinion.  Stop talking about "I am open to any good idea, Republican or Democrat" - and start talking about the massive suffering of people in this country to get your bill passed.


    FDr's 1932 campaign was not fuzzy (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:18:13 AM EST
    this is a myth.

    The MSM is lazy and stupid (none / 0) (#11)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:37:44 AM EST
    They can't be bothered to discuss the details of the issues. If Obama got out there and did it, they would have to cover it. I wish he would go that route in addition to the YouTube. Might be more work on his part, but it is essential. His team seems to know they can't rely on the MSM, but going around them is not enough.

    After 8 years of ramrodding (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:03:03 AM EST
    and not caring about left views and 8 years of bloggers griping about the apathy of the president relative to left concerns, I wonder why "unity schtick" is so prevalent on the left.  Would the left prefer "get even" politics over the next 8 years? Does the left want the Rovian approach?  Talk to them.  Even if it ends up at 0 votes every time, the high road is always much easier to see from.  

    I agree the stimulus package is 800 billion short and that 800 billion should go to housing.  

    Here is a great way to stimulate the economy and work toward a housing resolution.

    Take 800 billion and make a gov't bank.  For people who are struggling to make their mortgage (homeowners and small businesses on their buildings) and have the new bank buy those mortgages.  Since this new bank does not have shareholders in a traditional sense and a executives fattening their wallets, your overhead will be considerably smaller.  

    Allow those people who are struggling to have this entity purchase their mortgages from the bank at cost.  No profit on these deals for two reasons, 1: the banks have already looked at this as bad debt and have made a tremendous amount of profits already on the loans (nearly 90% of early loans are interest a small portion is principal) 2: bad debt is off their books allowing them breathing room to lend elsewhere.

    Have the new loans established at a considerably lower amount for the first 3 years over their current payment.  Average loan at this point is most likely in a 6-7.50 apr.

    In year one, payments will be 25% of their previous payments, year 2 50%, year 3 75%, year 4 they will be locked in at 6.25%.

    The banks get rid of some of their "toxic assets", the homeowners maintain equity, can make their payments even if they have lost their jobs, and in the next 2 years of this recession foreclosures will not explode.  We also have the added benefit of those same homeowners spending money as they have more disposable income, banks have an infusion of cash from the buyout of the loans as well as the capacity to lend again to new home buyers without overly stringent lending policies.

    The banks get another 800 billion, the mortgagees get some relief and credit is eased, not fixed by any strectch of the imagination but eased.  

    We have a 2-3 year recession in front of us and bankruptcies and foreclosures were at an all time high in 2008, and will be considerably greater in 2009 unless something is done.  If there is no relief for homeowners there will be no relief for the economy.  Layoffs are at a 40 year high and at the end of this quarter may be at a 70 year high, there are plenty of americans who did not overspend, have adequate savings yet still may not be able to live for 12-18 months without a job which is the most likely scenario from an employment outlook.

    If "getting even" (5.00 / 7) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:16:35 AM EST
    means enacting polices that will be good for the country, why yes, I am for "getting even."

    So, so, so sick (5.00 / 5) (#12)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:41:17 AM EST
    of process over substance.

    It's going to destroy what is left of the economy (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:47:36 AM EST
    Me too (none / 0) (#8)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:28:49 AM EST
    The media has so dumbed down all discussion that everything gets put in the 'get even' framework. We couldn't impeach Bush because they would frame that as getting even for impeaching Clinton, with no examination of the merits of the case. Now they won't do anything to examine the merits of various economic proposals - they are just caught up in the 'who wins the political fight' part of it. I don't blame individuals for thinking that way too now - it is how the MSM discusses every issue.

    Like I am always saying... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:27:49 PM EST
    it more closely resembles professional wrestling than it does self-government.

    Math (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:20:39 AM EST
    2.3 million homeowners faced foreclosure last year
    250k is the median home price US

    2.3 times 250k is 575bn, and that is buying out the loan in its entirety from the bank which should not be necessary. Since the banks are looking at this as "toxic" they should be plenty happy with a lump sum buyout of 25% of the homes value for cash which should cost us 150bn cash right now.  

    The banks are boondoggling us to make us pay for their derivatives and CDS failings as opposed to managing through the foreclosure crisis.  

    IF you extrapolate to 9 million mortgages you would have a cash payout today of 562 billion to the banks and 9 million people with safety nets through this recession with additional income to fuel our stagnant economy, and capitalized banks who can solve their CDS/Derivatives problems with the cash infusion.

    Historically, 5-7% of homeowners default on their mortgages, we are looking at 9-12% this year and possibly more.  If the gov't takes over those loans we can realistically expect 8% to default not in the first 3 years but at some point.  Even at 8% default, the gov't bank stands to make a ton of money which can then be used for other needs as we all know that mortgages are great money makers, based on the interest/principal ratios in the early years.....


    Hitting the big (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:48:43 AM EST
    'Reset' button with the 800billion as you describe makes more sense than a lot of other proposals, as long as there are rules preventing people from making the same mistakes all over again. Home equity abuse on the part of borrowers is behind a great deal of the difficulties, in addition to the bank malfeasance.

    It's never going to happen though - there is little political will to even do the 'cramdown', allowing bankruptcy judges to reset the mortgage terms, which would only help a small percentage of troubled homeowners. Banks don't seem to want any rules put in place that would prevent them from trying to make a killing in the next bubble.


    absolutely (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:58:18 AM EST
    There will be bad debt again, but remember we lost over 1 million jobs last year and need to add 100k a month to remain stable as an economy.  We are going to lose 750k-1.0m this year and people will not be able to make their mortgages.  

    It is not that everyone of these homeowners bought a fleet of cars and too much house, it is because wages have remained stagnant for 8 years and jobs are being eliminated and ARMs are jumping rates that are unaffordable.

    The MSM and the Right would have us believe that anyone in financial trouble has no one to blame but themselves for overspending, yet the banks are the victims of the people who bit off more than they could chew.  Maybe it is both.   But at the end of the day, job loss and stagnant wages have played a far bigger role than what is being reported (as it is not being reported) and job recovery is at least a year away. It is not coincidental that the economy started to weaken with job losses and is now almost completely stalled as job losses have become staggering.

    at a 10% foreclosure rate the government bank STILL makes money.  Private banks have to pay exeuctives, shareholders, bonuses, jets, Madison avenue office space etc.  It will cost us to run this program but no where near it would a private entity who is profit focused.


    Talking to them is fine (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:28:10 AM EST
    Talk to them.  Even if it ends up at 0 votes every time, the high road is always much easier to see from.  

    It's granting concessions to them for those 0 votes that's ridiculous.


    granting tax breaks? (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:32:47 AM EST
    is ridiculous?  Almost never in history have we been faced with such a crisis, and granting tax breaks which I believe are helpful but not as helpful as shovel ready funding, is not a brain dead concession.  It is a concession that holds them accountable whether they voted for it or not.  They asked, they got and they were for it before they were against it.

    Which of the concessions bother you the most and how much do they cost and what is the negative impact?


    tax breaks don't help my brother (none / 0) (#23)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:37:58 AM EST
    He doesn't have a job.  He's already not paying taxes.

    but they do help small biz (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:56:49 PM EST
    and big biz and it is helpful overall, but far less helpful than money on the street.  Since last January I have been screaming about job creation stimulus and I think the American public was disserved by both parties who did nothing to address the hemorrhaging of jobs in the past 14 months.  Your brother and hundreds of thousands of hard working americans are going to be forced into serious financial difficulties while our representatives and bank execs cash their paychecks and fear not.  Despicable.

    30% (none / 0) (#28)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 01:43:55 PM EST
    That's the last number I heard.  30%.  Tax breaks related to how depreciation is calculated.  How much benefit does a small business get from that compared to a large business?  But maybe that will help small business.  If they actually manage to make some income.  

    But it's still not going to provide a job for my brother.  How many layoffs were announced on Monday?  How many people have already had unemployment benefits expire?


    I don't know how many jobs (none / 0) (#30)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 01:54:07 PM EST
    will be created.  Go back to my posts from september on and see me scream for them.

    For me as a small business owner, it will only help me retain positions i currently have and I have been paying my employees out of reserve for the past two months and expect to pay from reserves until September.  So it helps in our case to free up some capital so that we do not have to layoff and add to the problem.  

    As far as your brother is concerned he should be plenty pissed at dems and repubs for doing NOTHING over the past 6 months despite full evidence that job loss was accelerating at an alarming pace combined with the amount of time it takes for a jobs stimulus package to settle in (6-24 months).

    The frustration that people who have recently lost their jobs are feeling, is the same frustration that the 1.2 million who lost their jobs in 2008 have been feeling from 1-12 months.

    The democrats did nothing last year to address employmen either and Americans are feeling it.  This is not a left/right issue, this is a group of highly detached, overpaid and apathetic elected representatives.  

    I am sorry for your brother and the 4.59 million others who are looking for work.  I am sorry for the additional million or so who will lose their jobs this year.  


    Which tax cuts help you (none / 0) (#31)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:04:07 PM EST
    And by how much in real dollars?  What is the positive impact?  How many employess will be retained because of that tax cut?

    Seriously.  It could make me feel better them.


    nol (none / 0) (#33)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:21:33 PM EST
    net operating loss should help me and it will keep at least 3 employees.  The capital expenditures increase does not help me whatsoever.  Of course, until my accountant tells me what the benefit is in total I do not know, but it will help a bit and he thinks it will help fund those 3 employees.  A payroll tax holiday or a few of them would be most beneficial as well.

    In 2008-9 I will have a net operating loss and will have to keep the business going with reserves and eventually a credit line and any tax break i can get to help stem the tide will be most welcome.  

    That said, job creation would help my business a million times more than any tax break, but a job creation bill takes years to implement so during that period I have to operate at a loss and again, any help there is help.

    Lastly, infrastructure investment is an extraordinary stimulant, unfortunately it is also quite limited to the duration of the projects and does not create long term employment.  A trillion dollars in infrastrucutre would get the economy moving but unfortunately, 8 years of incompetence and lack of investment in science and engineering by our government in particular green technology, has left us in a horrible catch up situation.

    Investing in green tech over the last 8 years would have given us a "growth" industry that was sustainable.  Instead, we have to start now and wait years for those jobs to develop.


    Excuse my ignorance (none / 0) (#36)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:34:52 PM EST
    I think I understand what net operating loss is on a small scale (I have a small rental property).

    But (without knowing how much you pay your employees and pulling an amount of $20K annually out of ... the air) you've lost enough so that your deduction can fund those salaries?  How did you earn enough to keep it going?


    Profits from previous years (none / 0) (#37)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:38:09 PM EST
    we keep a reserve for loss years.  This will not pay their entire salaries but it helps stem the tide. We have enough reserve for 1 year without any work or orders coming in.  WE obviously do not want to burn through the entire reserve and hope not to.  

    Okay (none / 0) (#38)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:51:32 PM EST
    Naturally you have to have an overall strategy.  That makes sense.

    But back to the tax cut.  It doesn't fund three employees.  (Which is how I interpreted your statement above).  Applying the tax savings all to one employee, is one job "created" by that tax cut?

    [I'm probably not saying this well.  And I'm not trying to be argumentative.  I'm trying to see things in a dollar earned/dollar spent mode and I'm just not seeing it yet.


    no it is not adding jobs (none / 0) (#40)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 03:09:38 PM EST
    you are correct, nor is it paying for 3 employees, but it factors into keeping them which is a not a net gain, but avoiding a net loss.

    Even if there were a trillion dollars in job creation, it would not be more effective in creating jobs short term (next 18 months).  So in essence, a large stimulus bill for job creation should have been implemented and passed last year and in Feb/march/april, employment would be helped immensely.

    Instead, we had cash stimulus which created no jobs and no, zero zip nada, leadership on how to best address what I consider the most critical component of our economic tsunami, job creation.

    So without our representatives discussing job creation last year, and the haggling now over pimples on elephants arses, we are on the precipice of another depression.  

    70% of our economy is service based and when spending stalls as it has in the past 60 days, all hell breaks loose.  I said it in September, Ocotber, November and December and I say it again.  Loss of jobs, stangant income and apathy are a recipe for immense suffering and we have plenty of blame to pass around both parties who sat back, collected their checks and did nothing.


    from October (none / 0) (#41)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 03:14:38 PM EST
    frustrating (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Jlvngstn on Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 04:43:29 PM EST

    Some of us saw the housing crisis and said "do something", some of us saw the credit crisis and said "do something", in both cases the response was too late.
    For months some of us have been screaming that a jobs crisis is coming (it has been building for 9) and once again our politicians are doing nothing.

    How about this.  Every time we have 3 straight months of jobs losses, the house and senate take no paychecks.  Perhaps that will make them act.

    Robert Reich and Kuttner among others have said that we need to invest in deficit spending to create jobs.  Of course I said this 4 months ago in the hopes that our elected officials would start the process that will take them 6 months to no avail (yes I did write my representative).

    To avert a deep recession deficit spending for job creation should be assembled and enacted immediately.

    Unless of course our representatives love acting as if they are "saving the day" putting out these fires.

    Incompetence and lack of foresight is an affliction that both parties are stricken with.  

    Of course I also said "any bill without jobs creation is a bill not to pass".

    Loss of jobs is not an emergency so to speak, but combined with the economic/credit situation it is a timebomb that will increase bankruptcies, crime, foreclosures, depression and the shuttering of too many small businesses.

    It amazes me that in light of the current situation not ONE single politician is trying to AVERT more crises.....

    [ Reply to This ]


    or this (none / 0) (#42)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 03:28:49 PM EST
    The fed injected (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Jlvngstn on Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 08:40:48 AM EST

    600 bn into the market yesterday and it still dropped 777.  The fed has pumped almost a trillion and a half into the market this year.  
    We had 2000 bank failings in the S&L crisis and we have had 12 so far.

    We keep hearing that the problem is toxic mortgages, yet 1+ trillion dollars in the market has done nothing?  We keep hearing that people took bad loans, yet we have nothing in the bill to help those people.  Someone gave those bad loans.  And many of those loans were good in the 2006 economy.

    Remember the 2006 economy?  Unemployment at 4.2%, laborers working, electricians working, carpenters working, loan documentation specialists working, title holders working etc etc.

    Barack Obama was very quick to point out that John McCain never used the word middle class in the debate.  Mr. Obama, in a market with accelerating unemployment, foreclosures and people struggling to put food on the table, your suggestions did not have ONE single mention of how to help the middle class.

    John McCain is done.  The old bill is done.  Give me and the American people some HOPE.  

    Why do we hate the bill?  Because it stabilizes.  Lots of coma victims are stabilized before they go into a coma, but they are still in a coma.  Meanwhile, the doctors, hospitals and health workers are all getting paid and either the insurance company is picking up a portion of the tab or the sick person is destined for bankruptcy.

    We are a nation of people in a coma and we are bailing out the insurance companies so to speak.  When we wake up from this coma our house will be gone, our savings gone and our families fractured.  Meanwhile, the drunk driving financeers will have done their community service and will move on with their lives, their jobs and their finances hurt but intact by and large.

    Do not pass this bill until it includes job creation, home owner protection, unemployment extension and a statement from our next President addressing how we the american people will be protected from losing our homes and suffering a far greater fate than the mortgage lenders.

    I hear a lot of talk about what happens if the bill is not passed, but not one mention of what happens over the next 6 months if it does.  The pols know exactly what is about to happen with UE and what is going to happen to the people who were lucky enough to keep their job until now.  those folks who were not at risk of losing their home today, will be suffer the most next year when they have no protection and are forced to foreclose and file bankruptcy under the new lopsided bankruptcy law passed by these very same politicians.


    lastly this (none / 0) (#43)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 03:31:54 PM EST
    sharp increase (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Sep 29, 2008 at 08:02:16 PM EST

    is mostly attributed to the recent hurricane. the sharp increase that is coming in Oct-Dec will be a direct result of decreased spending now that the stimulus has run out and people are losing their jobs.   70% of our econ is service based and we kept our heads above water with the stimulus.  Stimulus is a bandaid on lung cancer.
    Layoffs are going to increase in frequency even AFTER the bailout pushing us above 7 and perhaps even to 8 by the end of the year.  

    For businesses with stellar credit and great payment history there are still loans out there, and the bailout will help those with good credit not any business with not so good credit or lightly collateralized.  

    So the big biz will continue to be ok even while laying off and the smaller co's who employ 35% of the workforce will be challenged just to keep the lights on.

    I got a call Friday to up my BLOC, no interest in doing so because I cannot invest until big business grows.  Most small co's are dependent on big co's growth for our livelihood and the bailout stabilizes, it does not do a darned thing for small to medium businesses....


    More like ~ 6.3 million. (none / 0) (#32)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:04:34 PM EST
    NPR today said the 4.6 million number released today (yesterday?) didn't include the 1.7 million on some new long-term unemployment system congress created last summer...

    more like 10 million (none / 0) (#34)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:22:04 PM EST
    if you include those who have "stopped looking for work".

    they didn't ask (none / 0) (#29)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 01:48:52 PM EST
    They didn't have to ask. Tax cut concessions were built in from the beginning. Obama doesn't even get credit for giving them what they asked for.

    Well, (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by dk on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:04:11 AM EST
    This is the triumph of style over substance and it is precisely the cancer that plagues the Beltway. And the question is has it infected Obama too?

    Unless one buys the "stealth progressive" theory on Obama, the answer to this question, to me at least, seems pretty obvious.

    But let's say that one takes the view that pols are pols, and really only do anything based on pressure to get elected/re-elected.  What pressure is there on Obama to do anything real?  The media is giving him cover, acting as if his proposal was anything other than the weak, likely ineffectual tea it is; congressional liberals either ultimately agree with Obama (thus, not making them particularly liberal) or too cowardly to oppose him; and republicans, well, they are irrelevant.  Obama has no incentive to change.

    While it is likely true as you say that... (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by cwolf on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:14:19 AM EST
    "...it does not a thing for the housing crisis. For that reason, I think it is bad politics."

    ,,,it would be of some assistance if "housing crisis" meant the same to me as it seems to for others.

    In one real world the housing crisis, as seen from the POV of the homeless is different from the POV of an individual who is having trouble making payments on an investment vacation villa, or a bank that is holding some bad paper on a development that just destroyed a wetland.
    I don't give a crap about banks & "investors".

    There are lots of houses! They are just owned by too few... and many hundreds of thousands of these buildings stand empty.

    trickle down (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:32:05 AM EST
    giving to non-profits, food banks, shelters etc is down 30-50% and in some cases 70%.  The problems faced by the homeless are considerably worse in these times because people cannot give to charities when they cannot make their mortgage.  So in effect, the hurting middle class is devastating to the homeless.  We haven't bottomed yet and that is frightening for those who need our help most....

    The "housing crisis" (none / 0) (#10)
    by Fabian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:37:28 AM EST
    is simply the very predictable result of bad lending practices (aided by reselling high risk paper as "safe" investments), price inflation (not value inflation) and a surplus of houses on the market.

    If there was a SIMPLE way of solving this problem without encouraging the practices that created the problem in the first place, I'd be all for it.

    What I see is a lot of businesses who made money on an unsustainable housing bubble and now want the good times to continue.  


    True (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Radix on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 10:43:10 AM EST
    The question is, "How to make sure the lesson is learned, without shooting everyone else in the foot too"?

    Indeed (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by andgarden on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:05:05 AM EST
    You know, I did some reading last night, and this bill isn't a complete disaster on its own terms. It actually does a lot of good and important things. But I think it's pretty clear that it isn't enough.

    It was a mistake--a big mistake--to start low.

    What Digby Said (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:06:37 AM EST
    Obama is facing a weaker Republican Party but a much bigger set of problems, with the stakes being exponentially higher. We just don't have time for this nonsense again. At some point, the Democrats are going to have to confront their central political problem, which is that the conservatives are not appeasable and that political and media elites have either been brainwashed by conservative propaganda or are conservatives by choice and they have to convince the citizenry that their ideology is better for their personal well being and the well being of the country. Until that happens, the conservatives will remain in power even as an opposition force and their failed ideology will continue to destroy this country. This isn't a game anymore. They have to pass good policies.

    The onus is on us to take the lead (none / 0) (#19)
    by MyLeftMind on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:24:29 AM EST
    Our new president has been clear from the onset of his campaign that he wants and needs our involvement.  Yet our major progressive organizations are still waffling, asking their members, "What should we do, how should we be involved?"  The people respond to these surveys with nebulous solutions like "end the war" and "fix the economy."  Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh types are laughing at us and offering their own solutions:  Spend a lot but also give big corporate tax breaks, so when the stimulus fails, Repubs can blame the Democrat's pork spending, while still ensuring the super rich benefit from failed Republican policies we expected our side to end.

    Obama's millions of supporters are still out there, waiting for some direction.  They're looking to him to lead, but Congress has the real authority and we're stuck with a system rife with political corruption.  Both sides of the aisle are beholden to big business, as campaign donations show.  Corporate greed is a huge part of the problem, and our solutions should acknowledge that, not just reinforce the same old social patterns.  

    We don't know if Obama's attempts at bipartisanship is a big show to expose Repubs as obstructionists, or if he'll give away the house in concessions to their demands.  Either way, of he's just a pol, progressives have the opportunity to get what we want simply by determining what that is, concisely stating it and communicating it to the millions of people who want Change Now.

    We need a coordinated effort to.  We need concrete solutions, as much as possible, even if we don't know yet whether the stimulus plan will work.  We need a fast public response to things like pulling the Family Planning out of the stimulus bill (something along the lines of "OK, it might not help the economy, but here's why it was there, those reasons are still good, here's the new associated bill to cover those programs it would have funded.")  We know first half of the bailout bill failed, people are pissed that CEOs got another 18 Billion in bonuses after the bailout.  Let's use that.  Forget accountability requirements, just cancel the rest of the bailout and put the extra $350 Billion into HOME/HOLC.  Buy up those "toxic" mortgages, help the distressed homeowners, stabilize the real estate market and tell the banks that's all the help their going to get unless they fire the CEOs that got us into this mess.  When they go out of business, buy the banks as well.  It will eventually pay off, and the public will be the recipients when the economy recovers.  Most importantly, by drawing a line in the sand, we can tell Republicans in Congress that we're in charge and they're out of business.  They can show solidarity and vote 100% against the President, but if the plans and the initiatives are owned by us, we the people, as much as by elected Dems, then Repubs will be voting against their own constituents in the middle class.  I don't know what will best stimulate the economy, but I know what doesn't help.  The banks are using our tax money to foreclose on the very homeowners who are paying for their CEO bonuses!  At the very least, a huge outcry from the public (via this new mass communication organization) could at least prevent more of the same.

    The beauty of this strategy is that by getting the people to lead, we not only support the new Obama Administration, we refocus on progressive action while drawing in the support of moderate Repubs.  We elicit their participation as well, so we have buy in.  We get our progressive grassroots organizations to educate Joe Plummer about why buying his mortgage helps him more than giving tax breaks to the company that just laid him off.  We focus on supporting the middle class for a change, not welfare for the poor or tax breaks/corporate welfare.  We let the auto industry go bankrupt, then we buy those companies and infuse R&D money into green car development, only the deal will eventually pay back the taxpayers, not the rich CEOs who bankrupted their companies.  We will have to scale down some of our progressive dreams for just a while.  We can look for other solutions to health care besides just giving it away free, because right now we can't afford it, and if we try, the right wing backlash will wreck the mid term elections.  We can reduce costs by modeling what single payer provides, but still require companies and individuals to pay part of the costs, and we can create a government sponsored alternative to private insurance companies.  

    People will have lots of good ideas on solving our problems, but if we don't have a large, powerful, accessible left wing organization, the Rush Limbaughs of the world will get all the air time and attention instead.  Let's create something to fill this void.

    hmmm.... (none / 0) (#22)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 11:36:11 AM EST
    The onus is on us to take the lead

    Does that then make us the leaders of the Free World?  

    We've been speaking out for years.  Oh sorry.  I mean we've been "leading" for years.  As I see it, the onus is on Obama to listen.

    Some of your ideas are fine.  Some are more than fine. How are you going to "lead" and implement them?


    We're too scattered (none / 0) (#24)
    by MyLeftMind on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:37:11 PM EST
    Our organizations are too special interest oriented.  Most groups focus on only a few policy areas, so they don't know what to support when issues like what should be in the stimulus bill come up, but if offered a path they'd gladly direct their members.  We need a clearinghouse for progressive organizations to join together.  A one-stop shop to take in ideas, think tank progressive policy solutions, and promote them to the millions of people waiting to support Obama.  We should preempt the Democratic Congress, because 1) We can't trust many of them to provide progressive solutions, and 2) Obama's success depends on the support of huge numbers of Americans.  If progressives can get them to buy in to solutions, they won't be as susceptible to right wing propaganda.

    This is our chance to not just speak out, but to lead.  Let's take it.


    Again, I ask... (none / 0) (#25)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:52:12 PM EST
    ...How are you going to lead?

    By the way... (none / 0) (#26)
    by sj on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 12:53:23 PM EST
    ... of course we're too scattered.  We are millions.  That's why we elect a leader.

    It's inherent (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 02:52:15 PM EST
    The terms "liberal" and "progressive" mean open to more than one idea - that's why there are many special interests in the Democratic Party - LGBT, women's issues, environmentalists, etc.  By definition, there are many constituencies, some whose goals (or the means to get there) are contradictory.

    The conservatives, on the other hand, really have 2 camps - the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives - which is why it is easier to get them to march in lockstep.  Fiscal conservatives don't have to agree with social conservatives, but then you only have to convince 1/2 - 1/2 of your party to get on board a matter, instead of 4/5 of your party.