Blogs

Recapitalization

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

RECAPITALIZATION....Via a link from John Quiggin, here's some raw data for you. It's several years old (too old to include data on Japan's banking crisis), but it includes historical data on the initial cost of recapitalizing banking systems after most of the other financial crises of the past few decades. Given the different nature of every crisis, and the different nature of small countries vs. big countries, it's hard to suggest that there's any kind of "average" recapitalization required after a banking collapse. Nonetheless, the historical records suggest that 5% of GDP would be a reasonable guess and 10% would hardly be out of line, especially given the epic nature of our current meltdown.

And how are we doing in comparison? So far the Treasury has committed $250 billion as part of the Paulson bailout plan and another $100 billion or so to Bear Stearns, AIG, and Fannie/Freddie. To get to 5% of GDP we'd need to increase that to $700 billion. To get to 10% we'd need to increase it to $1.4 trillion. Just some benchmarks to keep in mind.

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Flaming the Geezer Vote: Attacks on John McCain's Age May Backfire

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 8:58 PM EDT

Originally published on the Guardian's "On the road to the White House" blog, a project of Guardian Films

Every year, despite their purported senility and decrepitude, elderly people like myself somehow manage to hobble to the polls with their canes and walkers, or zip down in their golf carts or aging Cadillacs, and figure out which lever to pull or which little box to fill in. We are the most reliable group of voters in America. In 2004, people over the age of 65 made up more than a third of the voting age population, and what's more important, nearly 70% of them actually voted. In addition, seniors are a key segment of the vote in several vital swing states, including here in Nevada, as well as Florida and Pennsylvania.

With this in mind, attacking McCain on the basis of age is not just mean, it's dumb.

Weirdest. Mississippi Political Ad. Ever.

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 8:37 PM EDT

Lately McCain and Palin (McCalin, if they were a celebrity couple) aren't the only leaders fanning the flames of prejudice among their constituents.

Mississippi's Exhibit A: Republican Sen. Roger Wicker's "zany" ad bashing Democratic rival Ronnie Musgrove for being supported by, (of all people!), The Gays. Who apparently all look like Village People, as imagineered by Walt Disney. (Oh, and cows also support Musgrove. We don't know why.)

Anyway, you can catch the rather surreal video here:

Can Halloween Mask Sales Predict the Election?

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 7:19 PM EDT

Obama%20mask.jpgMcCain.jpg According to Fortune magazine, more than one Halloween mask retailer has claimed they can correctly predict who will win the White House. Spirit Halloween, the largest seasonal Halloween vendor in the US, says Bush outsold Kerry two to one in 2004, Gore sold 14 percent fewer masks in 2000, and Clinton masks won with 71 percent in 1996.

We decided to update Fortune's presidential mask findings for 2008 thus far; here's what we found.

Quote of the Day - 10.16.08

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:43 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Joe Klein:

Ronald Reagan used to say that the most frightening nine words in the English language were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." That is no longer true. This year, the most frightening eight words are "I'm John McCain and I approved this message."

Actually, that's just the best prepackaged zinger from the linked post. The most genuinely penetrating piece of wordsmithing was this:

We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class.

That's a very good metaphor. Personally, I'm not very interested in income redistribution. I'm interested in getting the distribution right in the first place. For three decades we've artificially kept middle class wage increases far below the growth rate of the economy, and this trend has been even more pronounced over the past eight years. This has created an enormous pool of extra money that's been — yes — strip mined and redirected to the rich, and fixing this is Barack Obama's biggest and longest-term challenge. If we restore the normal growth of middle class wages, it provides a sustainable consumer base for the entire economy; it reduces the demand for endless credit card debt; it brings down income inequality naturally; and it goes a long way toward keeping the financial sector under control and reining in Wall Street salaries without putting in place a bunch of artificial (and probably fruitless) regulations.

And that's just for starters. Stop the strip mining and economic vigor will follow. It's at the core of everything.

Who Cares If Joe the Plumber Isn't a Plumber?

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:34 PM EDT

Or if the Court of Common Pleas in Lucas County, Ohio, issued a tax lien on Joe Wurzelbacher, the now-(in)famous plumber-by-association?

I don't; nobody should.

But while John McCain and the right are heralding Joe as a hero for asking Barack Obama head-on if the plumbing business he wants to buy would pay higher taxes under Obama's economic plan, everyone else, it seems, is prying into his life and making a huff about the fact that he was never licensed as a plumber in Ohio, owes back taxes, and just might be related to Charles Keating.

Why can't we—the media—leave the guy alone? As far as I'm concerned, there are only two things that matter about Wurzelbacher: He probably won't actually pay more taxes under Obama's plan if he buys the plumbing business, and, as Andrew Sullivan notes:

Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin.

—Steve Aquino

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Priorities

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 6:11 PM EDT

PRIORITIES....Pakistan's economy is about to implode and they're looking for help:

President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day state visit as concern has surged over a possible debt default by Pakistan that could cripple its economy and spark more civil unrest. While the amount of money Pakistan needs in the short term is relatively small — $4 billion to $6 billion — analysts say the climate of crisis and public anger over domestic bailouts in the United States and Western Europe have made even a modest infusion from its Western allies politically difficult.

....The Bush administration and Congress have been shaping a long-term economic and military assistance package for Pakistan, but there is no indication the United States is able to step in with a short-term financial lifeline.

Pakistan is going to the Chinese now "because you go to the guys with the money," a senior International Monetary Fund official said. "And right now, the Chinese are the ones with the money."

By itself, this isn't a big deal. Pakistan has long been friendly with China, so there's no reason they shouldn't ask them for assistance.

Still, this is the kind of thing that's a canary in the coal mine. Global power generally flows to "the ones with the money," and to the extent that this is China, not the United States, our influence in the world inevitably wanes. In other words, it's not just a platitude to say that getting our economic shop in order really is at least as important as the fact that we can project military power into places like Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, considering how well that projection has gone lately, it's probably more important — and that means that it's time to get our priorities in order. This is decidedly not the right way to do it.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner says, "this is a very small canary." I agree.

Joe the....Um....Whatever

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 5:23 PM EDT

JOE THE....UM....WHATEVER....Chris Orr is agog at the attention conservatives are paying to supposed weathervane du jour Joe the Plumber:

Do not expect this ardor to be dampened by the facts that Wurzelbacher is not an independent, makes nowhere near the $250,000 that prompted his question to Obama, and is not, in fact, a licensed plumber.

Okay, but at least his name really is Joe, isn't it? That counts for something.

UPDATE: I was just kidding, but it turns out his name isn't Joe. It's Samuel. Sheesh. But I guess he goes by Joe.

Secret Service Keeping Press From Palin and Event Attendees

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

So says Dana Milbank:

I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they've started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty -- protecting the protectee -- and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it's unfounded because the reporters can't get close enough to identify the person.

Via Poynter Online. Wanna know why the McCain campaign wants to limit the media's access? Because it makes videos like this one.

Breaking: McCain Almost Missed Tonight's Letterman Appearance

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 4:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-letterman.jpgThe New York Times Caucus blog is reporting that John McCain was nearly forced to miss the taping of his "make-up" apperance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" as flights out of Philadelphia were experiencing delays. Dave would have blown his freakin' top. But they turned around and hired a helicopter:

The last time Mr. McCain canceled an appearance on "The Late Show" Mr. Letterman was not amused, and he has not let go of his fury... So when Mr. McCain found himself stuck on the tarmac here in Philadelphia, with what aides described as a two-hour delay on planes flying to Newark, he knew he had to act.
Mr. McCain's campaign plane turned around, and the campaign hired a small helicopter to whisk him, his wife, Cindy, two of their aides, and two Secret Service Agents, to their rendezvous with comedy.

McCain famously cancelled an appearance on Letterman's show three weeks ago as part of his Operation Pretend to Suspend the Campaign, but then turned up on a CBS internal feed preparing for a chat with Katie Couric. Letterman has mocked the senator ferociously since then. Tonight's appearance was to be a last-ditch attempt by McCain to calm Letterman down, but like just about everything these days, it sure seems like a lose-lose for poor old John. After the jump, a couple of choice McCain-skewering moments from recent Late Shows.