Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Financial Crisis, Government, Liberal Congress — Rick Moran @ 9:53 am

With the battle cry of “Too Big to Fail!” corporate and industry lobbyists are swarming the Treasury Department, looking to get a bite of that $700 billion pie the government so kindly left on the window sill to cool.

It’s a goddamn free for all - as in free money for all - and the predatory instincts of the well heeled hired guns who make their living grasping the taxpayer by the neck and shaking until the cash pours out of us are on full display.

They call it the “Troubled Asset Relief Program” or TARP and of that $700 billion authorized by Congress, the Treasury Department has handed out about $290 billion of it - and not all of it to who Congress intended it to go to.

One of the problems is that Congress decided to give Secretary Paulson almost unlimited discretion in deciding who should get the goodies. Big mistake. Once word was out on the street that absolutely free money was to be had by anyone “Too Big to Fail,” the wolfpack began to clog the halls of the ancient Treasury building, slinking from office to office, looking for a piece of the action.

Apparently, the only criteria necessary for receiving a diamond studded, 24 carat, mink-lined gift from the taxpayer was the degree of shamelessness on the part of your lobbyist - and their ability to knee walk in supplication to Paulsen’s office:

The Treasury Department is under siege by an army of hired guns for banks, savings and loan associations and insurers — as well as for improbable candidates like a Hispanic business group representing plumbing and home-heating specialists. That last group wants the Treasury to hire its members as contractors to take care of houses that the government may end up owning through buying distressed mortgages.

The lobbying frenzy worries many traditional bankers — the original targets of the rescue program — who fear that it could blur, or even undermine, the government’s effort to stabilize the financial system after its worst crisis since the 1930s.

Among the most rattled are community bankers.

“By the time they get to the community banks, there may not be enough money left,” said Edward L. Yingling, the president of the American Bankers Association. “The marketplace is looking at this so rapidly that those who have the money first may have some advantage.”

Adding to the frenzy is the possibility that the next Congress and White House could change the rules further. President-elect Barack Obama has added his voice by proposing that the struggling automakers get federal aid, which could mean giving them access to the fund — something the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., has resisted.

Don’t have yours yet? Me neither. What are we doing wrong? Maybe we should talk to the Commissar:

Then there is the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which is asking whether boat financing companies might be eligible for aid to ensure that dealers have access to credit to stock their showrooms with boats — costs have gone up as the credit markets have calcified. Using much the same rationale, the National Automobile Dealers Association is pleading that car dealers get consideration, too.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of good news for them individually,” said Jeb Mason, who as the Treasury’s liaison to the business community is the first port-of-call for lobbyists. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers among industries.”

Mr. Mason, 32, a lanky Texan in black cowboy boots who once worked in the White House for Karl Rove, shook his head over the dozens of phone calls and e-mail messages he gets every week. “I was telling a friend, ‘this must have been how the Politburo felt,’ ” he said.

Except the Commies came by their socialism honestly. Here you have a bunch of thieves lining up for it:

The Treasury set a deadline of Friday for institutions to apply for capital investments, which has meant a grueling few weeks for already overworked officials like Mr. Mason.

“Jeb is like the customer service agent at Verizon when the power lines go down,” said Robert S. Nichols, president of the Financial Services Forum, a trade group for big institutions like Citigroup, Fidelity and Allstate Insurance, some of which have received federal money.

Not exactly a customer service agent. They’re more likely to take your money rather than hand it out.

Still can’t get on the gravy train? There’s always Plan B: When in doubt, hire a former candidate for president of the United States to do your schmoozing for you:

Law and lobbying firms that specialize in government contracting fired off dispatches to clients and potential clients explaining opportunities in the new program. Capitalizing on the surge of interest, several large firms, including Patton Boggs; Akin Gump; P & L Gates; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; and Alston & Bird, have set up financial rescue shops.

Alston & Bird, for example, highlights its two biggest stars — former Senator Bob Dole and former Senator Tom Daschle. Mr. Dole “knows Hank Paulson very well” and has been “very helpful” with the financial rescue groups, said David E. Brown, an Alston & Bird partner involved in its effort.

“And of course, Senator Daschle is national co-chair of the Obama campaign,” Mr. Brown added, noting that because Mr. Daschle is not a registered lobbyist, his involvement is limited to “high level advisory and strategic advice.”

In addition to the banks, savings and loans, financial services companies, insurance giants, and any corporation that can redefine itself as being either a crazy uncle or poor cousin of one of the above, there is also Detroit seeking to be rewarded for designing ugly cars that no one wants and that get less gas mileage than the Space Shuttle. It appears that no level of failure, no limit on incompetence and stupidity, will stay the government from handing out cash to the unworthies, the profligates, the dimwitted sots who run American corporations.

And of course, we hear the tocsin sound among Democrats, calling the faithful to class warfare as an effort is still underway to find some means of making the rest of us pay for the stupidity of those who got tangled up in the sub prime mortgage mess.

“Too Big to Fail!” also means “Too Big an Idiot to Fail!”

“I’d like to see them use more of the money in TARP to help homeowners,” said Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “I think we’ve given them more authority than they have used.”

To be sure, the program announced on Tuesday by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could lead to significantly lower mortgage payments for several hundred thousand people facing foreclosures.

The program would be open to people who are at least three months delinquent on mortgages that are either owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The goal would be to reduce the monthly payments on all of those loans — by stretching the term to 40 years, or lowering the interest rate, or even lowering the amount of the loan — so that payments would not be higher than 38 percent of a family’s monthly income.

“Foreclosures hurt families, their neighbors, whole communities and the overall housing market,” said James B. Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Eureka! Finally, a way to grab some of that bailout money for ourselves. Of course, you have to have a loan through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. And you have to not pay your mortgage for a couple of months (How many people who are two months delinquent will simply decide not to pay that third month in order to be eligible for the giveaway?).

But never fear. Help is on the way. And, on behalf of your fellow taxpayers, let me just say that I, for one, don’t mind giving mortgage scofflaws some of my hard earned cash - just as long as you let me spend the night whenever I want and allow me to lay in my hammock in your backyard every once and a while during the summer. I think that’s a fair exchange, don’t you?

By the time all is said and done, I am confident in saying that the government will not make the hard choices necessary to stem the flow of tax dollars to companies who have failed in the market place and now seek to have government reverse that decision and give the risk takers, the gamblers, the deadbeats, and the just plain greedy a second and third chance. Not as long as there are lobbyists who have dollar signs shining in their eyes and the smell of free cash stinking up our Capitol city.

What a spectacle.



Filed under: Liberal Congress, Politics — Rick Moran @ 8:57 am

The post election spinning has already begun on the left about just what this election is going to say about the ideological direction of the country. Dominated by the far left, the netroots are already rubbing their hands together in anticipation of altering the foundations of American society, overturning the intent of the Constitution, while sticking it to the “rich” and conservatives through a variety of punitive measures.

But will that really be the case now that the the Democrats have made large gains in the house and senate while winning the presidency?

The unpalatable choices at this point are: Does a Democratic landslide mean that the radical New Left “progressive” agenda - a holdover from the 1960’s with a patina of populist rhetoric and soothing bromides to make the medicine go down (while obscuring the true, radical nature of the change being contemplated) - will be triumphant or will there be a more pragmatic, center-left kind of governance that will certainly be bad enough but stop short of revolution?

The key, of course, is Obama himself. As a candidate, he has talked the talk of a moderate leftist, seeking to alter the tone of political discussion while reforming the political culture by reducing the influence of lobbyists, making ethics reform a top priority, and taking some other unspecified actions that will make Washington more accountable to the people.

Obviously, the devil is in the details. And surprisingly, these issues are not necessarily indicative of a radical leftist revolution that would sweep away the old America and replace it with a socialist utopia. John McCain wanted to do basically the same thing and I doubt whether there are too many on either side of the political divide who would disagree that it would be a good thing if our elected leaders were held accountable for earmarks, pork barrel spending, gifts from lobbyists, and other practices that make Washington such a cesspool of cynicism and corruption.

It is in Obama’s agenda on the economy, health care, education, and social welfare issues that America is to be transformed and where “progressive” ideas that have been percolating for 40 years will finally get a tryout in the real world.

Take health insurance - and by extension - the health care industry. Most advocates of national health insurance agree that unless a very large percentage of the uninsured are induced - or forced through mandates - to buy insurance, health care costs are going to continue to skyrocket.

In fact, as national health insurance supporter Ezra Klein points out, there can be no universal coverage without forcing people into an insurance pool:

I’m hearing a lot of hating on the individual mandate* — and I don’t get it. Some are complaining that the mandate “criminalizes the uninsured,” others are saying “”The uninsured shouldn’t have a financial penalty onto top of the health and financial consequences of being uninsured.” So let me try and say this clearly: Single-payer health care is an individual mandate. The enforcement mechanism, in that case, is taxation. If you don’t pay your taxes, you’re breaking the law. If you decide to withhold the portion of your taxes that go towards health care, you’re a criminal. In fact, there is absolutely no universal health care system that wouldn’t include a mandate of some kind — that’s how you make it universal. Indeed, without a mandate, you can’t have a decent health system: If the healthy can opt-out until they get sick, coverage will be unaffordable for everyone. For a risk pool to work, it needs members at low risk.

Klein drives the universal mandate idea home by pointing out that the federal government will have to subsidize those who cannot afford to buy into the pool.

The question with an individual mandate is subsidization and affordability. If we pass a law levying an individual mandate and subsidizing premiums down to $50 a month, there’ll be few complaints. A mandate with no subsidization, however, is an impossible burden on millions of families. When evaluating an individual mandate, that’s where liberals need to focus: The generosity of the subsidies. The Wyden Plan, for instance, subsidizes up to 400 percent of the poverty line. The Massachusetts plan subsidizes up to 300 percent. The Schwarzenegger plan subsidizes up to 250 percent. That looks too low, and I’ll talk more about it later today. But for now, folks need to keep in mind that you can’t simultaneously demand universal health care and reject mandates. Universal health care is a coverage mandate — whether the enforcement comes through tax receipts or proof of premium payment is not a relevant distinction. Either one can be an overwhelming burden on the poor or the foundation of a progressive, generous system. The focus, always, should be on telling the two apart.

Now Obama swears that he has no mandates to buy health insurance for anyone except parents with children and that he only wants to make health insurance more affordable. Hillary Clinton criticized him heavily for this stance in the primaries. She quite rightly pointed out that without mandates, there would still be millions of uninsured Americans and that the cost of health care (and thus health insurance) would continue to rise. Obama countered that his plan would bring down the cost of health insurance significantly and that every child in America would be covered.

But do you really think the new, far left Congress is going to stop there?

Klein sees subsidizing people 400% above the poverty line as “too low.” Think about that for a minute and you’ll see where this entire mess is heading. Each year, that subsidy will increase (as will the cost of buying into the pool for those unlucky enough to have made a success of their lives). The inexorable rise in health care costs will be matched with higher and higher buy ins to the pool. Eventually, everyone will not only have to be subsidized but the government will be buying their insurance for them. This will necessitate the takeover of the health care system by government bureaucrats who will rationalize this power grab by claiming that since they’re paying for it, they should have a say in how it’s run.

And who enforces this entire draconian system?

Well, it would have to be a federal agency used to going after deadbeats and scofflaws. It would have to have an enforcement division already active and experienced. And they would have to possess a list of taxpayers so that they could check and make sure everyone is with the program.

Roll out the red carpet for our new IRS Overlords.

Universal health insurance has been a goal of the New Left since the 1960’s (pretty much a liberal dream since Henry Wallace included the program in his 1948 Progressive Party platform). There is no doubt that adoption of mandates as a means to achieving universal health insurance would be a radical transformation of the relationship between the citizen and the government. It would place vast new powers at the disposal of the IRS - an agency already bloated and drunk with power. And, despite its backer’s claims to the contrary, it would limit and even eliminate choice in selecting health care providers and treatments.

This is the real danger of an Obama presidency - a vastly more leftist Congress who will push the neophyte president farther to the left than he wants to go. The Pelosi-Reid-Waxman-Boxer-Frank wing of the Democratic party will be in charge and unless Obama stands up to them - something he has failed to demonstrate in his short time in the Senate - we are going to get a revolution not just in health care, but education, environmental policy, social welfare issues, and a host of other areas.

Energy policy is another area where a radical Congressional majority might push Obama further than he wants to go. The new President should probably rename his energy policy the “Global Warming Prevention” policy because everything in it will be geared to reducing our carbon footprint on the world rather than creating growth by supplying industry with cheap oil or its alternative. There will be no growth or slow growth unless we increase our energy supply. This is a fact of economic life and by ignoring it, Obama and the Democrats will condemn us to a stagnant economy for years to come.

Why? Obama wants to reduce our emissions by 90% by 2050. Think about that for a moment. OBama wants to reduce our emissions to where they were in approximately 1930 in 40 years time. He wants to propose this drastic change at a time when there is absolutely no proven, viable alternative to fossil fuels that can be utilized on a continent sized scale. Solar would work - for some. Wind power - for fewer.

Geothermal? Never tried on an industrial scale. Hydrogen? Promising as an alternative to powering vehicles but a long way off - and even longer to mass produce the vehicles and make a dent in the 120 million gasoline burning autos and trucks on the road now. Fusion? Interesting developments in the last few years but as a power generating technology, it is decades away. (Going nuclear is doable and we could replace every existing oil and coal fired plant with the nuclear alternative in less than 20 years. But does anyone expect that the Democrats will do that?)

All of this means that the one means of producing the energy we need to grow our economy - fossil fuels - will be taxed, the companies that pull it out of the ground and sell it will be taxed, we consumers who use it will be taxed, and everything possible will be done to discourage its use. Meanwhile, our dependence on the Iran’s and Venezuela’s of the world will increase while we wait patiently for government bureaucrats to invent the hydrogen powered car or come up with the technology to burn coal more cleanly.

Why can’t we do both? And all of it, the whole shebang? Why can’t we drill for every drop of oil while vigorously working to find alternatives? This idea that we must do one or the other is just plain nuts.

The reason is that we are basically dealing with people who have a bias against business - and especially big business. Why should we think this attitude on the part of liberals will change? Profits are evil and the only way to redeem this dirty money is to “go green” and slavishly adhere to an arbitrary set of rules about how much a company is allowed to make, what it must do with its profits. And God help you if you make “excess” profits (defined, of course, by people who know nothing of profit, loss, meeting a payroll, or re-investing profits to find more energy). Furniture stores routinely mark up their products 400%. I don’t hear too many calls to seize “excess” profits from Joe’s Furniture Emporium, do you?

Of course, none of this nonsense will produce a single erg of energy or lessen our dependence on foreign oil by one drop. But at least it will feel good if we grab money from big oil (who will then pass the increases down to us which is the plan anyway - make energy more expensive by punishing the American people for using it.).

The goal is not more energy but more sanctimony. And in that, liberals are well stocked.

Then there’s Big Labor’s attempt to use government as kind of a super-labor organizer. How liberals can look at us with a straight face and not call the fascist “card check” program undemocratic only shows how much hubris there is on the left. Taking away a workers’ right to a secret ballot, only requiring him to sign a card in the presence of a “union representative” is unconscionable.

In practice, the program will be used to aggrandize organized crime who still today see as their main source of income and money laundering union dues and union pension funds. Those “union reps” in many areas have historically been mob goons. Even the unions that this piece of legislation has been crafted for - government and health care unions - are not immune to mob infiltration. And I guarantee with this legislation enacted, it will only get worse.

These are but a few of the things we have to look forward to when Congress convenes in January. We should consider finding ways to fight all of them as they promise to remake America in ways the Founders never intended.

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