A Failing Left Flank

Krugman, citing Media Matters, writes:

One major sin of news coverage, especially on TV, is the way certain points of view just get excluded from consideration — even if many of the best-informed people hold those views. Most famously and disastrously, the case against invading Iraq was just not heard in the months before the war.

And still it happens. According to the invaluable Media Matters, the idea that the Obama stimulus plan might be too small — a view held by many well-known economists — basically went unreported on broadcast news during the stimulus debate. . . . Meanwhile, it’s rapidly becoming clear that yes, the plan was too small.

More . . .

Part of this was due to the fact that the voices that are perceived as the "Left flank," the Left blogs, simply did not speak up on the issue. They are too invested in Barack Obama, and not sufficiently vested in progressive policies. Maybe they thought the stimulus was the right size (and maybe they approve of the Obama approach on the financial crisis), but I doubt it.

The blogs still have not figured out how to address issues in the Obama Era. Of course they still know how to fight the Limbaugh/Steele/John Galt battles, but those are pretty meaningless now.

Speaking for me only

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    "The Left flank" in action (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 03:57:43 PM EST

    Even though I know that the Obama administration really does spend a lot of time looking at blogs, I agree with what he told the New York Times about economic blogging.

    Mr. Obama rode to the White House partly on his savvy use of new technology, and he has a staff-written blog on his presidential Web site. Even so, he said he did not find blogs to be reliable, citing the economy as one example.

    "Part of the reason we don't spend a lot of time looking at blogs," he said, "is because if you haven't looked at it very carefully, then you may be under the impression that somehow there's a clean answer one way or another -- well, you just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they'll be fine."

    Most of the economic blogging I've seen has amounted to little more than advocating for bank nationalization. I don't disagree with that analysis, but I don't think most analysis takes into account the size of the problem and the unlikelihood of nationalization solving our problems without destroying a lot more wealth.

    The truth is that nationalizing huge banks like CitiGroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo is completely different from nationalizing little regional banks. You're wiping out a ton of shareholder wealth, you're still on the hook for all their bad debt, and where are you ever going to find buyers when it comes time to denationalize the banks?

    There are no simple answers to this economic crisis.

    The "Left" blogger Booman. If there is a bigger Obama shill this side of my friend Al Giordano, you'd be hard pressed to find them.

    In the meantime, Roubini, Krugman, Baker, DeLong, et. al, are bloggers of sorts, but what they really are are EXPERTS.

    Um, booman, the wealth is already GONE (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:15:09 PM EST
    (I know, shouldn't even bother. . .)

    Citigroup (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Steve M on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:28:26 PM EST
    has a market cap of 5.64 billion dollars as of this writing.  That represents approximately 5.64 billion wagers, at roughly a buck apiece, on the proposition that the government will find some day to magically bail out Citi rather than put it into receivership.

    It is, apparently, a vital national interest to ensure that those wagers are all paid off.  Why, just think of the catastrophe that would result from losing a whole 5 billion dollars!  I doubt our economic system could ever survive such a shock.


    They're asking for questions (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:32:32 PM EST
    for MTP Roundtable.

    Mine: Is the administration really still going on the assumption that the banks are just having a liquidity problem instead of being insolvent? Is stress testing going to determine the real value of the banks' toxic assets or keep obfuscating it? They are either insolvent or they aren't, so why isn't there a "clean answer" about whether to nationalize the banks or not once you've determined whether they're solvent or not?


    Aye. More like an out-of-the-money option (none / 0) (#21)
    by RonK Seattle on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:58:15 PM EST
    ... than an equity share at this point. a speculation on imponderables.

    Heh (none / 0) (#3)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:01:27 PM EST
    Great minds...

    Oh God Booman (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 09:51:40 AM EST
    Some people will do anything to maintain a resemblance of warm comfortable glow while never accomplishing anything of dire need or even plain regular old need in real time terms.  They can talk years and years and decades and centuries of past subtle nuances though.

    Not sure it would help much (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:00:08 PM EST
    via twitter - they're not listening anyway:

    Mr. Obama rode to the White House partly on his savvy use of new technology, and he has a staff-written blog on his presidential Web site. Even so, he said he did not find blogs to be reliable, citing the economy as one example.

    "Part of the reason we don't spend a lot of time looking at blogs," he said, "is because if you haven't looked at it very carefully, then you may be under the impression that somehow there's a clean answer one way or another -- well, you just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they'll be fine."

    He doesn't give a sh*t. (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by lilburro on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:21:10 PM EST
    If he wanted to, he could use the blogs as a left flank.  But if he offers blanket disrespect that's never likely to happen.  

    Blogs are only useful to Obama when they emanate from my.barackobama.  

    But hopefully there will be friendlier, more receptive folks in his administration, particularly in the DoJ.  But Tim Geithner I think is not going to be one of those people.


    Well, (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:28:39 PM EST
    people were mean to him in his two tries at blogging at dailykos, so...

    The blogs can be a left flank whether he uses them or not, if they're willing to be. In fact better for him if they're seen as furiously opposing his "centrism."

    I think at least it's a useful pose for the administration. Triangulation some might call it.


    It's triangulation, for sure (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by lilburro on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 06:31:01 PM EST
    but if he is always down on blogs publically, how can he also listen to them?  When he criticizes blogs, he criticizes those to the left of him, and also an alternate media that is eager to help him.  Blogs have a rather wide readership these days too.  I think he's hampering himself in being too big, too important for the apparently unsophisticated, but largely read left blogs.  If he brands them as unreliable, attempts by his administration to use them will be seen as very weak indeed.

    He's not just dismissing (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 07:02:55 PM EST
    those on the left, but those on the right too:

    just nationalize all the banks, or you just leave them alone and they'll be fine

    That's both ends of the spectrum. He's dismissing bloggers generally for uninformedness. And in most cases he's probably right to do so. Just scan memeorandum and see how much is well informed, well sourced and not hysterical. Probably somewhat better than the old media in the best cases, but that's not saying much...

    The value of the left blogs is more for agitation purposes imo, to open up a space on the left, to support and spread the ideas of those who are well-informed, and to counter the torrent of madness coming from the right. In other words, I don't think it matters what Obama says about blogs. If he said he read them he'd be tarred with every bit of nonsense coming out of them. What matters is what bloggers do to enlarge the sphere of engaged and informed people.


    The underlying issue: there's no liberal movement (5.00 / 5) (#12)
    by Pacific John on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 05:16:13 PM EST
    It's widely recognized that a functional liberal movement needs think tanks, independent issue groups, pundits, and autonomous media, all well to the president's left, in order to either buy him room to maneuver (say, on the budget) or institute discipline (say, on Medicare and Social Security), but nearly everyone became part of The One's campaign.

    Most of the stuff BTD has been grousing about comes from not having not having enough watchdogs and independent advocates who are not personally invested in this campaign-administration.

    We don't have a movement, we have the campaign. Seems like a fragile and dysfunctional structure to me.

    The crazed irony is that none of this was necessary, not the tsunami of cash, not that everyone from MoveOn to NARAL to third tier blogs becoming part of the Obama machine. The GOP brand was done, and there was no reason to sell out our values to drive redundant nails in its coffin.


    I find his campaign's insistence (5.00 / 4) (#16)
    by lilburro on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 06:27:47 PM EST
    on being the organizers, as opposed to being receptive to them, sort of creepy and counterproductive.  If someone crossposts a diary from my.barackobama.com, the logical conclusion is that whatever they support, their conflict of interest is Obama - if he doesn't like it, will they still?  Their loyalty to him is so clear.  

    i don't blame (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:45:54 PM EST
    the obama administration for not paying much attention, with respect to the economy, to the "left" blogs; most of the "left" bloggers don't know their butts from a hole in the ground about economics.

    i don't include dr. krugman, et al, in the "left" blogger catagory, because, as you noted, they are less bloggers, than they are experts in the field.

    unfortunately, the obama administration isn't paying much attention to the experts (who, unlike the clowns in the bush administration, actually saw the crash coming) either. this would be ok, if pres. obama was more versed in the field, he isn't.

    instead, he seems insistent on playing the "post-partisan" nonsense, and wasting valuable time on such as rush limbaugh.

    he needs to snap out of it, quickly, before we end up with soup lines.

    the most ridiculous statement i've heard is the one about the "toxic" assets having inherent value above their market value. i hate to be the bearer of bad news, but their market value is their inherent value, no more or less.

    Market value IS inherent value? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by RonK Seattle on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 10:21:30 PM EST
    If you believe that, you don't know your economics from a hole in the ground.

    What else could it be? (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:02:02 AM EST
    Market value is what the market is willing to pay, by definition.

    And 'inherent value' is the present value ... (none / 0) (#34)
    by RonK Seattle on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:54:27 PM EST
    ... of the time-discounted flow of returns on holding the asset.  It's the "time will tell" value of a mortgage, for instance, in which the mortgagee might or might not make payments completely or timely, for which other expenses might be incurred, and for which the underlying property might be liquidated at one or another price at one or another future date.

    "Market value" is, roughly, a spot speculation on inherent value (though "inherent value" might vary depending on who holds the asset).

    Where affected by risk, uncertainty, inelasticity, market manipulation, and panic (among other considerations), inherent value and market value routinely diverge.


    Kind of ironic (none / 0) (#32)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 11:11:16 AM EST
    What I find to be hilarious is the idea that "market value" is gospel when it comes to some things (like CEO pay) and not when it comes to other things (like the value of those companies CEOs drove into the ground).  So we have to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to the CEOs of Bank of America or Citibank but we can't value their companies at chump change.

    He's dithering, and wasting time on Limbaugh, (3.66 / 3) (#26)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:03:43 AM EST
    Because he is totally clueless.  He has NO clue what to do, and he's terrified of taking any action that might upset anyone.  Leaders Lead.  Obama dithers.  

    More generalizations..... (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by NYShooter on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:59:47 PM EST
    On technical, immensely complicated issues of the sort facing our economy, most bloggers' opinions are just that, opinions. Or, to put it another way.....worthless..

    But some bloggers are experts; and as such, require a full, respectful audience by the decision makers.

    Now, some of us "non experts" do serve a useful purpose. Being interested, informed people, we can play a role in expanding the audience vis-à-vis the critical nature of the problem. We can try to understand what the real experts are saying, and see to it that we pass that advice along to as many people as possible.

    To use an analogy, I believe what Krugman, et al are saying is:
    Imagine there's a fire somewhere; experts in the fire dept. say it will require ten buckets of water to put it out. The politically astute, but non-expert,  management says, "we have to be true to our campaign promise and show fiscal restraint; Let's use seven buckets, and see how it goes."

    Result: The building burns to the ground.

    I don't think you have to be an expert to see that one coming.

    Obama in trouble already? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by mikeel on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 05:08:08 PM EST
    He needs to spend time governing, and he needs to dump Geithner real soon.  And he was asleep on the budget vote Thursday night.  It's starting to look like 1993-94 all over again.

    It may be just a bad day, but Obama dropped to 56% approval in the Rasmussen tracker.  There are three things Obama must focus on:  economy, healthcare, banks and a possible second stimulus.  Time to put everything else on the back burner for now.

    Yes, most of the lefty blogosphere doesn't understand economics, but I would recommend Charles Lemos on MyDD.

    Front burner (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lentinel on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 06:04:33 PM EST
    I would like to place the war in Iraq on the front burner.
    500,000 dollars a minute sent down the drain.
    Lives sacrificed.
    I don't think anyone can be serious about the economy or the mental health of the country and not even raise the issue of continuing this kind of madness.

    First the economy! (none / 0) (#27)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:06:26 AM EST
    Unemployment goes up every month, the market continues to fall (some say it will be at 3,000 in a month), these things need to be turned around before he dumps more money into his various projects.  People need JOBS, they need to see their retirement funds come back.  That's what people really care about.  

    There's no question that elements (5.00 / 4) (#20)
    by Anne on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 08:01:06 PM EST
    of the left flank failed to shake the magic dust out of their eyes so they would be able to see clearly enough to be objective about Obama, but there's no way that can be an excuse for Obama not being able to get a grip on this economic mess; at some point one has to begin to accept that the actions he is taking - or not taking - and the philosophy he is adopting, is because he actually believes this is the way to solve the problems.

    I continue to find it so interesting that Obama seems to have such a commitment to reaching out and listening to Republicans on a wide range of issues, but he seems incapable of tuning in to the voices of his own party, or to a segment of the expert population whose ideas are different from his; for the life of me I cannot figure out what it is he thinks he has to lose by opening himself up to people who not only support his presidency, but want him to succeed.

    I have pretty much reached the end of my patience with left bloggers who go to greater and greater lengths to make excuses for Obama, to the point where they have lost most of their credibility and are on the verge of being a laughingstock.  

    That's sad on so many levels, but it still does not get Obama off the hook.

    The experts (none / 0) (#13)
    by SOS on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 05:17:15 PM EST
    can't get us out of this mess.  

    Does Obama read what Krugman writes? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Saul on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 06:05:50 PM EST
    If so does he ask him for his opinion on what would be the best policies to adopt.

    Short answer.... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by trillian on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 07:43:15 PM EST

    Dr Krugman's opinion on the economy has not been sought....according to Krugman himself.


    Obama seems to be a Wall Street made man -- as is (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 11:13:24 PM EST
    Geithner. I'm not sure where Summers' loyalty lies.

    But Simon Johnson said he asked Obama's econ team members to look at alternatives -- and they said not interested. From my comment at Corrente, Johnson writes:

    The course of policy is set. For at least the next 18 months, we know what to expect on the banking front. Now Treasury is committed, the leadership in this area will not deviate from a pro-insider policy for large banks; they are not interested in alternative approaches (I've asked). The result will be further destruction of the private credit system and more recourse to relatively nontransparent actions by the Federal Reserve, with all the risks that entails.

    The road to economic hell is paved with good intentions and bad banks.

    From Simon Johnson's blog The Baseline Scenario.

    Johnson sees borderline illegality/definitie lack of ethics from our Big Bankster Boiz, fears the worst.  Do read at least my comment, but better the whole Johnson piece.  He's another economist trying to make the comprehensible to lay persons.

    The more I'm learning about this Big Meltdown Me$$ the more concerned I've become.


    Obviously Geithner is clueless. (none / 0) (#28)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:07:50 AM EST
    He should never have been put in that position.  Dump him, the sooner the better.

    It will never happen (none / 0) (#37)
    by sj on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 11:18:01 PM EST
    BO went to too much trouble to get him.  

    And he's done NOTHING. (none / 0) (#39)
    by BrassTacks on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 02:59:37 AM EST
    Lambert at Corrente posts that the MCM is ignoring (none / 0) (#24)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 11:26:49 PM EST
    the single payer option for healthcare. And comments point out Obama referring to single payer supporters as "liberal bleeding hearts." Are there any other kind? Hhhmmm. Conservative bleeding hearts? For whom do the hearts bleed? Heh.

    We are the red haired stepchildren of the Obama administration, I fear.


    And, guess what, precious few lefty bloggers are willing to urge Obama to look at single payer seriously.

    Until the economy is on the mend, (none / 0) (#29)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:09:11 AM EST
    Most Americans aren't interested in focusing on the single payer system, or much of anything else.

    Which is too bad since single payer would be an (none / 0) (#35)
    by jawbone on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 03:50:48 PM EST
    tremendous economic stimulus. Going from $20K annually for insurance to even $15K would be a major savings, right?

    We can't afford to not have single payer universal healthcare.

    And, recall, the Brits instituted their universal healthcare right after WWII -- when the nation was on its knees economically, there was tremendous infrastructure damage and devastation, soldiers were returning to a bad economy, there was still rationing (into the 50's). Yet, faced with these horrible conditions Labour (old Labour, with grit and courage) said it's time for doing the right thing.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#38)
    by sj on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 11:19:01 PM EST
    being without/unable to afford health care is part and parcel of the worry about job security.

    savvy use of new technology??? (none / 0) (#30)
    by ding7777 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 07:43:05 AM EST
    Except for live streaming some speeches/appearances, Obama's whitehouse . gov website is way behind Bush's use of the website

    I wonder (none / 0) (#33)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 11:17:11 AM EST
    why Obama is doing this?  Denigrating his left flank in this way (not by saying that he disagrees but just by saying that they are ignorant and unreliable) does not seem very productive.

    Part of the reason conservatives got to where they did was because of a loud, vocal, RESPECTED right flank.  The fact that they were mostly ignorant idiots wasn't even open for discussion for about 20 years.  Their views were heard and their ideas implemented - even though they were foolish and largely lead to the mess we're in now.

    Now I am not saying Obama should implement idiotic ideas, but it doesn't help the progressive cause generally to silence or dismiss voices on the left - either as strategy or policy.

    The media is only too willing to buy into the notion that anything left of center is crazy while canonizing people on the right now don't know anything about anything (I'm talking about you, George Will).  How does it help us to have the President agree with this rationale by dining at David Brooks' house while saying he doesn't even read blogs?

    YYYEEEEAAARRRRGGGGHHH (none / 0) (#36)
    by pluege on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 06:41:36 PM EST
    They [the left blogs] are too invested in Barack Obama, and not sufficiently vested in progressive policies.

    truer words said never.

    BTD, pound them baby! The Obamaminions do such great harm to America and progressivity with their fanboy dissembling.