Kevin Drum

The Opposition Opposes

| Sat Feb. 14, 2009 3:36 PM EST
THE OPPOSITION OPPOSES....Atrios says it's OK for the opposition party to oppose the president en masse:

I don't have a problem with Republicans who, on balance, wanted the bill to pass but still voted against it. I don't really think it's "cowardice" or whatever, they're simply making it clear that they're the opposition party. And that's a good thing! It's only in bizarro Broderville, combined with the annoying supermajority bits of the Senate, that anyone really thinks differently.

Basically, I agree. Both parties have an interest in differentiating themselves, and the best way to do that is to make the majority party responsible for its agenda.

But as Atrios also points out, there's one problem with this: "the annoying supermajority bits of the Senate."  A parliamentary system is fine if you have the machinery of a parliamentary system, in which the majority party has the power to pass its legislative program and then stands or falls based on how well it works out.  But it's not so fine if a party can win the presidency, the House, and the Senate by landslide majorities but still can't pass big parts of its program because it needs 60 votes in the Senate.

If Republicans want to adopt the party discipline features of a parliamentary system, fine.  But they also need to adopt the rest of the system as well.  The filibuster was never intended to become a routine requirement that all legislation needs 60% of the vote in the Senate to pass.  But that's what it's become.  It's time for reform.

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Chart of the Day - 2.14.2009

| Sat Feb. 14, 2009 3:20 PM EST
CHART OF THE DAY....It's cold this year!  I guess that means global warming is a crock, right?

Even as a joke this is inane, but in case you want to see what's really happening this winter, here's a NASA chart of global temps for January.  As you can see, there are only two areas in the entire world that are colder than the 1951-1980 average: eastern Siberia and the American northeast, home to virtually the entire national press corps.  So naturally cold temps are getting lots of media play.  But, in fact, the rest of the world continues to be substantially warmer than in the recent past, and if you look at entire latitudes, even in this chilly month every single one is warmer than in the past.  It would be nice if global warming really were taking a break, but it's not.

CBO Scores the Stimulus – Part 2

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 7:38 PM EST
CBO SCORES THE STIMULUS – PART 2....So how did the stimulus bill turn out?  Answer: according to the CBO, pretty well.  Their scoring of the original House bill is here, and their scoring of the final bill is here.  The bottom line for both bills is below: the original bill pumped out 64% of its money over the next 18 months, while the final bill pumps out 74%.

Now, the final bill has a different mix of taxes and spending, and it also has a bit less total spending than the original bill.  However, it has more spending in the next two fiscal years.  This frankly doesn't seem like a bad tradeoff.  All kvetching aside — and I've got a lot of the same kvetches as other liberals — the final bill really doesn't seem substantially worse than the original, and in some respects it's better.  Given the realities of the sausage factory, that's not bad.

Friday Cat Blogging - 13 February 2009

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 3:33 PM EST
FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....Our next-door neighbor and I are doing our part to stimulate the economy.  Thanks to roots and trees and strong winds, our fence collapsed several weeks ago and we agreed to stimulate the local fencebuilding industry by getting it replaced.  Yesterday Inkblot took his first walk along our magnificent new construction project, and as you can see by his tail propped up behind him, he approves.  Who wouldn't?

As for Domino, I hauled her up onto the fence too, but she was less impressed.  She doesn't really like being that high off the ground.  So this week's picture is as ground level as you can get.  I know that I'm just begging for comments about how, um, rotund she is, but I say, bring 'em on.  Domino is deliriously happy with her body image and thinks that it just gives her more surface area to soak up the sunshine.  And she's right.  So go soak up some sun this weekend if you can.  Lincoln and Washington would approve.

Pork

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 3:06 PM EST
PORK....Here's the headline in today's Washington Post:

Despite Pledges, Package Has Some Pork

And the evidence?  $8 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for the lithium ion battery industry, $200 million for Filipino vets, and $100 million for small shipyards.  And if that all sounds oddly non-porcine to you, you're right:

None of the items in the sprawling $789 billion package are traditional earmarks — funding for a project inserted by a lawmaker bypassing the normal budgeting process — according to the White House and Democratic leaders....But many Republicans, anti-tax advocates and other critics argue that the final version of the bill is still larded with wasteful spending and dubious initiatives that will do little to create jobs or spur financial markets.

In other words, this isn't pork at all.  It's just normal spending — and after all, if you're going to have a stimulus bill you have to spend the money on something, don't you?  All this is, it turns out, is spending Republicans don't like.

So why does the Post collude with the GOP to pretend instead that this is pork, when their story admits just the opposite?  It is a mystery.

RSS Update

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:32 PM EST
RSS UPDATE....Good news!  My RSS feed has been fixed.  Here's the URL:

http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs/Kevin+Drum/feed

This is feeding full posts, not just headlines. If you're still having problems with your reader (I use Google Reader and it's working fine), please let us know in comments.

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I Can Hear You

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:26 PM EST
I CAN HEAR YOU....Big Brother is not just watching you anymore, he's listening in too.  This is probably inevitable, but I still don't have to like it, do I?

Quote of the Day - 02.13.09

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:00 PM EST
QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, on Sarah Palin:

"She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall."

Indeed.  Which is why I can hardly wait for her to talk herself into running again in 2012.

Why Gregg?

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:46 PM EST
WHY GREGG?....I don't know what really happened to cause Judd Gregg to withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary.  It's absurd for him to say that he hadn't really thought through the consequences of the stimulus package, which was by far the biggest story in Washington at the time he was nominated, and he claims the census kerfuffle was trivial.  So what was it?

Who knows?  But I'm sort of curious about the other side of this nomination too.  What was Obama thinking?  It's one thing to nominate a moderate conservative like Ray LaHood, or pragmatists like Jim Jones and Robert Gates, but Gregg is a full-blown dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative.  He's not a crank, but he's not within light years of finding common ground with a liberal Democratic president either.

So why did Obama nominate him?  Does he just not care about the Commerce Department?  Or did he really think that somehow this could work out?  The more I think about it, the stranger it seems.

Nationalization

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:07 PM EST
Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini argue in the Washington Post today that the U.S. banking system is insolvent to the tune of $400 billion, and nationalization is the only answer.  Here's their advice:

First, and this is by far the toughest step, determine which banks are insolvent. Geithner's stress test would be helpful here. The government should start with the big banks that have outside debt, and it must determine which are solvent and which aren't in one fell swoop to avoid panic. Otherwise, bringing down one big bank will start an immediate run on the equity and long-term debt of the others. It will be a rough ride, but the regulators must stay strong. Second, immediately nationalize insolvent institutions....Third, once an institution is taken over, separate its assets into good and bad ones....Fourth, merge all the remaining bad assets into one enterprise. ....Basically, we're all Swedes now. We have used all our bullets, and the boogeyman is still coming. Let's pull out the bazooka and be done with it.

I expect this to become a pretty mainstream opinion over the next few weeks, and once Geithner's stress testing is finished he's going to come under tremendous pressure to make the results public and do exactly what Richardson and Roubini suggest.  Pretty soon, even America's bankers will be capitalists, whether they like it or not.