This House Is Not a Home

A tremendously hot August that flirted with record highs is almost history and with it the tendentious hope some had for a Summer of Recovery. Au revoir. Boasts that emanated from the White House of an imminent reversal of America’s dismal economic predicament (and Democratic political fortunes) were so predictably wide of the mark that the reluctant acknowledgment of such is almost uncontroversial. One must understand that when a president is this out of his depth, what other recourse is there besides breaking out the Blue Goose to disseminate false hope?

A woeful chasm in this country persists and it sets the Best and the Brightest of our venerable institutions diametrically apart from the economic reality on the ground. This Recovery Summer that decidedly wasn’t brings to mind the “green shoots” we heard a bit about in the spring of 2009. Or perhaps more notoriously, reminds us of how wrong the establishment was in its belated discovery of economic recession 2½ years ago. If their epic wrongness continues unabated, words like “expert” may literally have to undergo semantic change. “A person who commands considerable status despite lack of foresight, special knowledge or self-awareness,” is what Webster’s Fourth may read at the turn of the next century.

Optimistic talk of liberal policy wonks—who else is there left to defend this administration?—is given the lie to by NPR a day ago.

Articles like these make pearl-clutchers out of us all:

[I]n light of the financial crisis and Fannie and Freddie's near-collapse, policy leaders are also rethinking the government's role — and many Americans are starting to question whether homeownership is the only path to the American Dream.

Fannie and Freddie function by buying, bundling and then stamping a government guarantee on mortgages. Then they sell them to investors. It keeps the banks happy because it keeps capital flowing, and it keeps consumers happy because it makes low, fixed-rate mortgages possible.

In a related occurrence, Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, finally lent his lisp to an astonishing truism: “Not everybody can or should be a homeowner,” the congressman informs us, summoning the authority of a public official oblivious to how tragically late he is.

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Tea Party's Health Care Opposition Turns Racist, Violent

I can respect conservatives who can respect liberals. I can work with conservatives who are willing to work with progressives. If your goal is to move America rather than your party forward, than I'd like to shake your hand and find a way to do it together. What I cannot respect are people who think it's painfully obvious that their beliefs are the one and only definition of "right" or of "American." I cannot abide for half a second those people who think anyone even half an inch different than they are unpatriotic, socialist, elitist, stupid, or undeserving.

And that is why I loathe Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement. You think government is too big? Okay, I get that. You think the President is taking us down a bad path? I disagree, but whatever. You believe Congress is broken? Who doesn't. You think black people who dare to disagree with you are Soviet Kenyan n------s who gas Jews? Well in that case, you represent none of the best and all of the worst of American history, you racist, uninformed, self-righteous, cowardly, unpatriotic, anarchist halfwit toads. Roll Call reports:

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) said tea party protesters opposed to the health care reform legislation yelled racial epithets at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Lewis’ chief of staff earlier today. Carson said the taunts against Lewis came as the three men — all African-American — walked out of the Cannon House Office Building for votes this afternoon.

“They were shouting the N-word,” Carson said. “It was like a page out of a time machine.” Carson said Capitol Police surrounded the group and escorted them across the street to the Capitol.

And staffers and Members reported seeing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) slurred for being a homosexual and a protester spitting on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), another African-American lawmaker.

Do these addle-brained huns really think they’re going to change anyone’s mind with racist name calling? Do you they honestly think that this tripe passes for factual discourse? As conservative Joe Scarborough tweets, "John Lewis is a friend, a great man and an American hero. Anyone attacking such a man with racial slurs has a dark heart and a grim soul." And "Also, the attacks against Barney Frank were hateful and outrageous. Barney and I usually disagreed in Congress but he loves his country."

Also, check out this picture, H/T Think Progress:

Yeah, killing democratically elected leaders. That's real patriotic. You're just a regular John Wilkes Booth there, aren't ya.

To lighten things up, here’s Jon Stewart’s latest BRILLIANT style parody takedown of Glenn Beck. "It's not that I'm saying, I'm not saying that believing there should be a minimum standard for how much lead there can be in our paint might lead to a government right to sterilize and kill Jews, I'm not saying that that might be the case! I'm saying that's the case."

Frank! Kucinich! Salazar!

(Cross posted from 21st Century Democrats)

The 21st Century Democrats' Youth Leadership Speaker Series is off to a great start teaching and inspiring tomorrow's progressive leaders of the Democratic Party with speakers like Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and--soon--Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

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Weekly Audit: Too Big to Fail is Just Too Big

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Last week, President Barack Obama released key legislation designed to fight the banking industry's too-big-to-fail problem. But Obama's plan doesn't actually address too-big-to-fail at all. It reinforces a broken system in which economically dangerous companies are bailed out whenever they drive themselves to the brink of failure.

If we want the economy to support all people, we have to break up the big banks and start treating the creation of good jobs as an economic priority on par with Wall Street rescues.

The editors of The Nation break the political debate over banking into three camps:


       
  • The first camp is composed of bank lobbyists, Republicans and conservative Democrats and wants to do nothing.

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  • Camp two, endorsed by the White House and influential Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), would impose tougher regulations on too-big-to-fail banks to keep them from getting out of control.

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  • The third camp wants to go even further: If a bank is too-big-to-fail, it is also too-big-to-regulate. Companies that pose a danger to the economy have to be split up into smaller firms that cannot induce economic ruin.


The Nation editors rightly see the third strategy as the most sensible. While the "break-up-the-banks" policy is being portrayed as a left-wing pipe dream by cable news networks, the policy actually relies on an age-old observation of conservative economists. Regulators make mistakes, and they often get co-opted by the very industries they are supposed to be supervising.

The practical policy is to impose structural limits on what activities banks can participate in and how big they can get. Just look at the list of high-profile supporters: former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former Citigroup Chairman John Reed, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King. I don't remember seeing any of those guys at the Iraq War protests.

Many of the regulatory blind spots that brought down the economy were obvious to some policymakers for years. Back in 1994, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) wrote an article for The Washington Monthly warning that derivatives trading was putting the economy in grave danger. Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chair Brooksley Born tried to take action on these derivatives, but was overruled by other regulators, including then-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, and then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, now the top economic adviser to President Obama. Summers and Greenspan even convinced Congress to pass a law banning the regulation of key derivatives, including credit default swaps, which ultimately brought down insurance giant AIG.

Fifteen years after Dorgan's article first ran, The Washington Monthly is featuring it again, along with a recent speech by Dorgan that details massive failures in Wall Street and Washington.

"We had regulators come to town in recent years and willfully boasted that they wanted to be blind as regulators," Dorgan says.

There are good elements of Obama's plan to deal with too-big-to-fail. It gives policymakers the option of putting a too-big-to-fail institution through a special bankruptcy process administered by the executive branch, thus avoiding the problems created in bankruptcy court when Lehman Brothers failed. But the bad part is really bad: Officials would also have the option to provide unlimited bailouts to Big Finance via loans, guarantees and even asset purchases.

As Mike Lillis notes for The Washington Independent, some responsible Democrats like Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) have been objecting to this aspect of the legislation for months. Sherman, in fact, calls it "TARP on steroids," noting that the bank bailout at least came with some meager oversight and a limit on the program's actual size.

The bank lobby is spending money like mad to maintain their stranglehold on the economy. Neither Congress or the administration will change course without intense public pressure. So it was very reassuring last week to see thousands of people protesting the annual meeting of top bank lobby group, the American Bankers Association. David Moberg chronicles the protest in a blog post for Working In These Times that covers speeches by both key union leaders and ordinary people facing foreclosure after watching their tax dollars go to the very bankers who wrecked the economy.

"There was broad agreement on anger at the banks for providing so little, if any, public benefit for the massive bail-out, and for so quickly returning to the greed and abuse that precipitated the crisis," Moberg writes.

Laura Flanders covers the protests for GRITtv, including video of protesters chanting "Bust up big banks!" In a roundtable discussion with Christina Clausen of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, George Goehl of National People's Action and Rob Robertson of the Right To The City Alliance, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi explains the overriding impotence of the regulations Congress is about to approve. Regulators will not be able to crack down on abusive derivatives, a full 8,000 of 8,200 banks will be exempt from Consumer Financial Protection Agency oversight, while the same agencies that screwed up heading into this crisis will be charged with preventing the next one.

"They've had sweeping powers to do whatever they wanted," Taibbi says. "They've had this regulatory power all along."

What we need are good jobs, and lots of them. Obama's economic stimulus package has made tangible economic progress. It's saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is clearly responsible for the turnaround in gross domestic product (GDP) we saw in the third quarter. But a full 17% of the workforce remains unable to find full-time work, as Julianne Malveux explains for The Progressive.

When Wall Street crashed in 1929 and unleashed the Great Depression, the government eventually stepped in as an employer-of-last-resort. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). built schools, parks, roads and bridges which still serve our communities today. Both the WPA and the CCC employed literally millions of people--in the 1930s. It's a model that could work very well today.

As the current recession makes clear, ending too-big-to-fail and guaranteeing a good job for everyone in our society who wants one are the two most critical structural reforms our economy needs. Don't let lawmakers forget it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Frank: "On What Planet Do You Spend Most of Your Time?"

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is having none of the you're-a-Nazi bullcrap at his town hall meetings. Give the man credit for his spine in this video as he smacks down a woman who compared Obama to Hitler because she heard he might cut Medicare to help the deficit.

"Ma'am, having a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table!"

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