"Here You Leave Today and Enter the World of Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy" by IceNineJon on flickr
To escape the fantasy world of confidence fairies, invisible bond vigilantes and the economic zombies and pod people who dominate Washington, I went to see Cowboys and Aliens. It was a healthy, life-affirming return to reality. If you prefer horror films, watch CSPAN 2.
In this fun Hollywood escape, violent, prejudiced men trapped in their own machismo join with repressed victims of genocide to confront rapacious creatures intent on capturing the gold market. People captured by the gold freaks are turned into zombies to feed the looters. The heroes are Indiana Jones, 007, and the last of the Mohicans played phoenix-like by the pretty House Lady. There’s a liberal bartender and a kid who becomes a man by dissecting a bug. In the end, the humans of all types realize they have to join together to defeat the rapacious creatures who are looting the planet and turning humans into zombies and pod people. There’s hope for our species!
Back in Washington, D.C. there are no heroes and no upbeat ending. Instead, the looting, muggings and beatings will continue until morale improves.
In our “real” world, there is a radical extremist group driven by zombies and zombie beliefs who successfully blackmail the nation into strangling its own economy. The supposedly “sane” group that is supposed to stop this madness has become cowardly and turned into mindless pod people, who assure the nation that the gutting of American government and essential services and safety nets won’t occur in one step but in several, whose outcome is locked in by an undemocratic Super Congress and the next debt limit blackmail in 2013. Read the rest of this entry →
Catherine Rampell, the New York Times’ usually sensible economist, provides a good commentary on today’s depressing Commerce Department report on our stagnant economy. If you read the first two thirds of her article, you’d logically conclude that unless we can find a replacement for the rapidly fading federal stimulus, there isn’t anything on the horizon to raise GDP growth and boost employment. Logically she ends with this:
“There’s not going to be additional monetary stimulus, and it’s hard to imagine any fiscal stimulus given the current discussion in Washington,” Mr. Ryding said. “So what’s going to get us out of this? The inevitable conclusion is time, and that’s not very satisfactory.”
The Commerce Department report tells us the economic recession was much deeper than previously believed — we are still not back to the GDP levels of 2007. And the second dip this year, while not yet technically a “recession” because GDP growth hasn’t gone negative yet, was worse than originally reported.
As Dean Baker reminds us, demand was crushed, the 2009 stimulus helped reverse that, but the stimulus is quickly winding down and is now offset by severe reductions in state government spending.
The result is entirely predictable: Depressed demand from people losing $6 or $7 trillion in wealth, plus declining or negative stimulus, equals a declining economy, with little or no growth and worsening unemployment. You couldn’t ask for a clearer confirmation of Keynes and the need for immediate, substantial new stimulus.
So what happens when a sensible economist becomes a Pod Person? They say things like this:
Washington, therefore, has a delicate balancing act in its current debt ceiling debates. Given the unsustainable debt trajectory that the economy is on — primarily because of the country’s growing health care obligations — Congress needs to impose greater fiscal discipline. But imposing too much too soon, or being too focused on the wrong types of spending cuts, could be self-defeating by weakening growth so greatly that tax revenue falls and requires the country to borrow even more.
Given inflation concerns, it also seemed unlikely that the Federal Reserve will swoop in with another round of monetary easing to goose growth.
Shorter Rampell: The economy is gasping for air, so we need to cut off the oxygen supply more slowly. Since core inflation is very low, the Fed should worry about hyper inflation. And because our private health providers charge too much to provide less than universal coverage, we have a debt crisis and should cut Medicare.
You can’t argue with Pod People.
(For a human interpretation of today’s dismal economic report, see Dean Baker.
Oh my, the nation may need to draw down on its strategic reserves of smelling salts and fainting couches.
What else can it do when one of the nation’s most self-righteous/important bozos, the man Time Magazine hired to be an “editor at large,” and whom MSNBC calls a “senior political analyst,” gave us this grownup assessment of the President of the United States:
“I thought he was a dick yesterday,” Halperin, who also is a senior political analyst for MSNBC, said on Morning Joe, referring to the President’s conduct during his press conference.
That sent Joe Scarborough, worried about losing his Pod People viewers, all atwitter. Here’s the report by Politico, home of more Poddies and Zombies than Halperin can count:
Host Joe Scarborough hoped to prevent the comment from being broadcast, saying, “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe… don’t do that. Did we delay that?”
Just minutes later, Halperin quickly apologized to the president and viewers for his choice of words. “Joking aside, this is an absolute apology. I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize to the president and the viewers who heard me say that,” Halperin said.
“We’re going to have a meeting after the show,” Scarborough said.
So what was twelve year old Halperin complaining about? It seems the President chastized the GOP leaders for insisting we slash the deficits via egregious cuts in spending on worthwhile programs, while protecting unwarranted tax breaks for rich people and prosperous corporations and risking default on US credit. Well, no wonder Mark was upset. Who wouldnt be angered to hear John Boehner and that nice Mitch McConnell called out for being cynical, irresponsible, inhumane jerks?
I don’t see how the Beltway can recover from this if men like Halperin have to apologize. Can grownup journalism survive if senior political analysts are not allowed to behave like unpromising adolescents and resort to naughty potty talk while pretending to cover important national issues?
This could be the end of journalism as we know it. [About time.]
Updates: Reactions now coming in from scandalized journalists:
Digby, DeLong and likely others have already commented on (wept, pulled hair out, thrown darts at) Ryan Avent’s report of the Obama economic advisers doubling down on their “we’ve done enough for the unemployed” excuses, refusing to acknowledge Obama’s economic policies have failed to produce either healthy, sustainable growth or an acceptable rate of improvement in the nation’s unemployment.
Paul Krugman calls it “learned helplessness,” but it looks more like Stockholm Syndrome or worse. It’s not just the White House folding again to anti-government Tea-GOP demands; Obama’s team seems to believe the same gibberish, and we’re all going to pay for their mistakes. They’ve gone from “spend now, cut spending later,” to “cut now and cut later, and maybe spend a little to save face.” As Avent concludes:
In any case, it seems a sure thing that fiscal policy will be a net drag on the economy in coming quarters, and not an insignificant one either.
DeLong notes that the likely effect on the US economy will be worse than the downturn and pain the UK just experienced from their self-inflicted bout with austerity. (more on UK austerity failure here) You’d think Americans would be grateful for the advance lesson in macroeconomics, but our ruling class is made up of non-learners: Ideas that are wrong in theory and failed in practice have to be enacted here, for no good reason.
That’s bad enough, but then the Obama Pods at the Committee to RE-Elect the President (CREEP) and the DCCC have the nerve to send me e-mails — yes, I’ve sinned in the past , but I’m better now — asking me for money while they push policies that are little different from what we’d expect from a President Romney. That’s not Romney pre-primaries; that’s Romney if he actually fooled the Tea-GOP crazies and became, you know, actually responsible for doing something for which he might be held accountable.
I don’t know why I should contribute to people whose policies have become indistinguishable from what we’d get from a Romney agenda. You’d think even the Obama Pod People would figure that out, but they keep asking.
Another e-mail tells me Obama’s campaign manager — Pfeiffer? — will be a keynote speaker at NetRoots Nation. I’m can’t make it this year, but if I were going, I’d be saving up confetti to shower on him. I’d cut up lots of pictures of rotten tomatoes and . . . send them in lieu of a donation. Probably get arrested, but I’d feel better. It’s come to that. Nice work, Pod People.
There are many ways to test whether your Senator has become a mindless pod person, but one of the surest litmus tests is whether he/she supports restricting the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and trying to limit global greenhouse gases. I regret to inform the people of Michigan that Debbie Stabenow and several of her “Democrat” colleagues, are now climate denying pod persons.
As Think Progress and various environmental organizations are reporting, the EPA’s power to enforce the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other enviornmental laws, particularly regulations of climate change gases, has become one of the Tea-GOP’s favorite targets. And for faux Democrats like Senator Manchin, who campaigned by firing a bullet through a non-existent CO2 cap ‘n trade bill, it’s a literal target. World’s greatest deliberative body?
So the environmental community, which should include all sentient human beings plus polar bears and other critters, is now alarmed by an AP report suggesting the White House may be willing to accept anti-EPA “riders” to the budget bill. That’s the bill the leaderless Democrats and unprincipled White House are negotiating with only slightly less crazy than Tea-GOP Leader Boehner on how much to undermine the US economy and harm poor people, kids, women, science, education, emergency preparedness and the overall public welfare.
To understand this, think of this process as the US equivalent to the devastating Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe, in which a nation is having to choose between really bad options and godawful ones. Except in the US, the dilemma is self inflicted by stupidity and corrupt corporate capture, and all the decent options have been foolishly or maliciously taken off the table.
In this insane process, every faux Democrat is rushing to demonstrate that they too don’t believe it’s important to protect clean air and clean water or confront global climate change, and so stripping away EPA powers is an easy way to show that, by golly, you’re an unthinking, careless pod person too.
From Think Progress, here’s what Debbie Stabenow and fellow pod people would do:
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced amendment 215, the EPA Stationary Source Regulations Suspension Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). The amendment calls for:
– A two-year suspension of stationary source regulations of carbon dioxide and methane.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has introduced amendment 236, which has three elements:
– Forbidding regulation of greenhouse gases from a emitter that doesn’t also produce other regulated air pollution
– Codification of the EPA tailoring rule that establishes a 75,000 ton CO2e/year threshold for regulation
– Excluding regulation of biofuel greenhouse emissions related to land-use changes, or of any greenhouse emissions from other agricultural activities
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced amendment 265, which has four elements:
– A two-year suspension of stationary source greenhouse gas regulations
– Preventing any future California waiver for tailpipe greenhouse emissions
– Excluding regulation of biofuel greenhouse emissions related to land-use changes, or of any greenhouse emissions from other agricultural activities
– Allocating $5 billion to the Advanced Energy Project tax credit
Folks, these are pod people, every one of them. Do you know whether your Senator has fallen asleep? Better check. Initial votes may occur today.
The White House put out a disclaimer to Politico which reads like “we really like the public option.”
“As the administration has made clear, the funding bill should not be used to further unrelated policy agendas, and we remain opposed to riders that do that, including as it relates to the environment,” a White House spokesman told POLITICO in an email.
NRDC “NRDC urges the president to make clear, unequivocally, that he would not accept any riders. Period. That means no amendments designed to hamper the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue updates that protect and safeguard our health while fighting pollution. . . .”
National Wildlife Federation:
“Our nation’s bedrock environmental laws are under attack by oil companies. People from across America are speaking out against the polluter attacks on the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, but where is President Obama?
President Obama needs to stand with the American people against big polluters who put toxins in the air we breathe and the water we drink. We won’t have a clean energy future if he bows to polluters’ dirty air agenda.
Mr. President, for the sake of our children, don’t let Big Oil hijack the budget debate, and don’t rollback the Clean Air Act to put a Band-Aid on a broken budget process.
League of Conservation Voters:
. . . But corporate polluters and their congressional allies are demanding that the spending bill also include provisions that strip the EPA of its authority to limit carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid need to know that we absolutely will oppose any spending bill that includes a backdoor attempt to block, weaken or delay the EPA’s ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act.
Fred Krupp, EDF: “At EDF, our position is that children’s health should not be a bargaining chip.”
Classic: Former EPA Director, William Ruckleshaus replies to a Wall Street Journal editorial implying he’s dead, noting the announcement is premature:
The continuation of my breathing at this late date may be due to the protections afforded by the 1970 Clean Air Act and the EPA’s diligence in enforcing the act’s mandates.
I swear, there are days when I think we’re led by Pod People.
On Cenk’s MSNBC show tonight, he opened with a recap of the Tea-GOP atrocity in Wisconsin, explaining how this was an assault on workers and the middle class and a threat to the country. We’re with you, Cenk.
He then turned to Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown, usually one of the more sentient humans in the US Senate, and asked — or should I say pleaded with? — Brown to explain what, if any, strategy Congressional/Senate Democrats had to push back on the radical Tea-GOP jihad against government, workers, and everything else Democrats have achieved and stood for.
Cenk’s reaction was a “then we’re doomed” expression when Brown’s first response is that we have a President Obama with a [loud] microphone.
I’m not sure how you can tell whether your Senator has been replaced by a Pod Person, because, you know, they sorta look and talk the same. But I suspect one of the hints might be when the first thing they say when asked how America is going to fight back against and survive the insanity of the Tea-GOP assualt on America, they tell us to calm down and trust Barack Obama.
Expecting the same Obama who sold out on tax cuts for the rich, the Public Option, Gitmo, torture investigations/prosecutions, and coddling TBTF banksters, etc, to rein in the Tea-GOP is, uh, not reassuring.
In just the last three months, Obama undercut Schumer on limiting the tax breaks to those over a million in income. He undercut Schumer again today by making sure that when the White House’s corporate staff sits at the table with the crazies who would destroy the economy and 70 years of progressive governance, the Tea-GOP will not even be asked to consider raising revenues, let alone taking back the recent gift tax breaks for scofflaw corporations or wealthy Americans.
In the meantime, Walker’s Wisconsin, by forcing benefit “contributions” from state employees, is effectively imposing an 8 percent income tax increase on school teachers and other state employees. That’s not a general increase in taxes for everyone; it’s just one imposed on state workers.
A dozen or more other states will now follow this “solution” to their states’ budget crisis. Tax a select part of the middle class; spare the rich. What a non-Pod Senator should be saying is that a responsible President and Congress would explain “shared sacrifice” to hedge fund managers with billion dollar paydays. And a responsible President and Congress should take on that burden of getting states through the recession as a federal obligation, since it was the banksters’ housing bubble and the total failure of federal financial regulation, and not state worker wages, that tanked the national and state economies.
There are simply too many White House betrayals, broken promises, secret deals, dashed hopes, disingenuous dodges, stupid blunders (or were they deliberate?), insults to supporters and every element of the Democratic coalition, including America’s working class, to list here. FDL writes about them every day.
So is Senator Brown honestly expecting this President to lead us? Not a chance. Only Pod People still think America’s working class has a President on their side.
So far, no Democrat in Congress has the courage to say this. Are they all Pod People, or are they just dazed and terrified? We are still waiting for the first courageous Congress Person to clear her head, to stand up and say, “this President is destroying the Party and through design or incompetence, he’ll let the crazies destroy the country. We have to let go, and start fighting back.”
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