The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: June 2009 Page 1 of 2

Gay Pride



Keeping the odd hours I do, I just walked through the area where Toronto’s Gay Pride celebrations will take place.  At about 4 am the crowd was divided into celebrators still up from last night, with a few bars still open, and workers setting up the tents, portable toilets and stages for the weekends celebrations.  Lesbians, gays and straights mingled on the streets, which had been blocked off already by bored police officers, and judging from the couples holding hands or kissing, there were a lot of straights celebrating with their gay friends and neighbours.  Still, the sweetest couple I saw, caressing each other and kissing slowly and playfully, were gay, which is as it should be.

And there were a couple of drag queens too, which is also as it should be, because at Stonewall it was the queens who first started ripping up paving stones; the queens who first said “enough!”


Can’t say I find this all that interesting.  Yes, he’s a hypocrite. Yes, there’s a train wreck quality to it all.  Yes, he’s hurt people in his life. But, at the end of the day, his public life is over (not because he cheated, but because he’s become a laughingstock), he’s clearly in a lot of pain, and I don’t see any real reason to kick him while he’s down.

Now booting him solidly for being the sort of Repubican bastard who wouldn’t take free federal money to help people who needed help, that’s another matter.  And in that sense, I’m not sorry he self-destructed.  The country will be just fine with one less Republican who has no empathy for other people.  But I can’t take any real pleasure in watching him, any more than I did in watching Spitzer implode.

The Gore Gutlessness Lesson for Mousavi

A friend of mine, someone I respect a great deal, just observed that Mousavi calling for more demonstrations was sad, given that it isn’t his head that’s going to be cracked.  Leaving aside the fact that I’m not so sure he’s sacrosanct, if things go far enough, my response is “so what?”

Because, with all due respect it’s that sort of attitude that let Bush get appointed as President in 2000 and thus lead to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.  Nothing’s worth getting heads cracked to most Westerners.  Certainly not an election which was even more unquestionably stolen than the Iranian one (which may or may not have been.)

For all the good Gore has done since then, I’ll despise him to the day I die for his gutlessness in 2000.  Democratic crowds, including leg-breakers from the unions and other sources were ready to roll, and he told them to stand down.  If there had been large protests, there is a very good chance that Sandra Day O’Connor would have blinked, and voted against Bush.

The price of Gore’s gutlessness was a lot of deaths.  A hell of a lot of deaths, and the gutting of the US constitution, which the country may never recover from.

I don’t know if Mousavi is making the right decision in continuing to keep the fight going.  But I do know that whether it’s the right decision or not is not determined by whether or not his opponents will use violence.  If you are unwilling to stand up to violence, then anyone who is willing to use it controls you.  You become their slave, and a slave to fear.

Senate Democrats Against The Public Option Aren’t Caving They Just Don’t Belive In Real Universal Healthcare

Chris at Americablog wonders why some Senate Democrats are caving on healthcare when 72% want a public option and 85% think the system needs to be fundamentally changed. He thinks it’s because such Dems are spineless.  That fundamentally misunderstands the situation.  To vote against something that 72% of the population wants indicates a Congress member isn’t a panderer to public opinion.  What it indicates instead is that they either:

  • actually don’t believe in a public option, let alone real universal healthcare a la single payor; or,
  • are being paid enough by insurers and other folks who want the current healthcare gravy train to continue that they are willing to vote against what the majority of their constituents want.

Personally, I’d go with both.  They don’t believe in universal healthcare, and they know that their real constituents aren’t the people who vote for them but the people who fund their campaigns and make sure they, their friends and their families are taken care of.  And no, they don’t think that’s you, the voter and taxpayer.

They don’t believe they won’t be reelected if they vote against a public option.  And given re-election rates of Senators, who are the people causing the most problem, they’re probably right, aren’t they?  Their calculation is that voters are sheep and won’t make them pay any real price for killing a good healthcare plan.

I’d say they’re right.  So given that they probably don’t believe in universal healthcare, that they don’t personally need it since they have good healthcare, that they get paid to vote against it and that they’ll pay no price for voting against it, why shouldn’t they kill it?

Seems like a brain dead calculation to me.  I’m sure it does to Diane Feinstein too.  As another entitled aristocrat once said “let them eat cake”.

Senate Finance Committee: We’re Going to Make You Buy Bad Insurance With No Public Option

winged_caduceusSeriously, this is just pathetic:

1) Lower the medicaid coverage rate from 150% to 100% of the Federal poverty line, 133% for kids and pregnant women (once you have the baby, too bad for you)
2) Subsidies stop at 300% of the poverty line (was 400%)
3) No Public Option mentioned
4) Insurance exchanges at the State level
5) Must buy insurance unless it costs more than 15% of your income
6) A fine if you don’t buy insurance unless you’re below the Federal poverty line

For the most part, as Walker discusses, this is actually identical to or slightly worse  than the plan put forward by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).  Yes, worse than the insurance industry’s plan.  Remarkable.  Baucus is really earning his campaign donations these days.

Of course, this is only one proposal, and in principle others from the House and other Senate committees could be better, and the better ones could be enacted.  Obama has said he wants a public option, and he may whip for it.

But, if something like this is what comes out as the eventual “reform” it is worse than nothing.  Being forced to buy bad insurance, with huge co-pays without a public option to keep prices in check has as its primary value that it is a subsidy for the insurance companies and that it reduces catastrophic healthcare costs for hospitals, because due to forced purchases of bad plans, some of the folks who used to come in at the last minute, after having not gotten care, and then costing the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency care, will be partially paid for.  They’ll still come in last minute and not have been properly cared for since the deductibles will mean they didn’t get help, but 70% or 80% of their final death-rattle costs will be paid for.

The problem with this plan is that it won’t control costs.  Without a public option, the insurance companies will have no check on their prices, let alone pressure to actually reduce them.  Because people will be forced to buy bad insurance, they’ll hate the plan, and because “reform” has been passed, we’ll have to wait another 10 or 12 years for another shot.

Obama desperately wants to pass health care “reform”.  The fear is that he may take the easy road, and pass any bill that is “better than nothing”, and that progressives will once again accept the logic that it’s better to get something rather than fight for an actual good bill.

But because Obama does desperately want to pass something, if progressives stand firm in the House or the Senate, and refuse as a bloc to pass anything without a good public option, nothing can pass unless Republicans cross the aisle, which is rather unlikely.

So the answer is to stop being taken for granted.  Stand up for and demand a public option, and refuse to accept a bill which does less.  Don’t let Obama have a cheap victory; a cheap “medicare reform”.  If he wants it, make him whip for a real bill, a good bill, with a public option.  He whipped for money to bail out banks in Eastern Europe.  He whipped for TARP.  He can whip for a good healthcare bill.  And it won’t even cost 700 billion.


Actions tell you what politicians really care about.  For example the Senate Health, Education,  Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hasn’t put out a public option on health care, because two Democratic members won’t vote for it.

“Not even at Rahm’s level has anyone specifically called members of the HELP committee and said ‘we want this public option,’ said the source. “No one from the White House has called and put pressure on any of them.”

Obama says that a robust public option is important to him.  But it’s all about priorities.    The war and IMF money to bail out Eastern European banks was a White House priority, you could tell because Obama himself whipped for it when it was in trouble, just as he did for the TARP bailout funds..  A real public option?  It’d be nice to have, says Obama, just like he said he’d like to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

He’d like to.  But he won’t expend any effort or capital for either.

I wonder how much capital he’ll expend for real health care reform.  Is something that can be called “health care reform” enough, or does he really want the real thing?

We’ll see.

Bailout Nation Book Salon at FDL

At 5 pm Eastern, I’ll be hosting a book salon with Barry Ritholz, about his book Bailout Nation, at Firedoglake.  Not to spoil the review, but it’s a good book, in fact, the best I’ve read about the crisis and what lead up to it.  Barry’s one of the folks who got it, who understood early.  Those who have been following me since I first started writing for blogs will remember that Barry was one of the original writers at The Blogging of the President, the first major blog I wrote for.  At that time, him, Oldman, Stirling Newberry, Hale Stewart and myself all wrote for BOPnews.  Perhaps nostalgia or pride clouds my memory, but I think BOP at that time had as good or better economics coverage than any blog at the time or since.  There is almost nothing, in general terms, which has happened since then economically, which one of us did not discuss then.

Barry is now at The Big Picture, one of the economics blogs I have on my blogroll.  I reccomend reading it regularly.

Some Questions About Consumer Spending

Image by Admit One

Image by Admit One

Why did it increase .5%?  The savings rate has gone from negative to about 5%, a ton of people have lost their jobs, and wage gains have been essentially nonexistent.

Is it, therefore, just a slight bounce from extreme restriction during the height of the panic, or is there reason to believe it will continue to go up?  I see, on the horizon, another wave of foreclosures, continued job losses (even if not as high as before, they will still be losses) and any recovery will cause further oil inflation, while there’s little reason to expect significant wage increases amongst those who are employed.

So why would we assume that consumer spending is going to keep increasing?  Is there an expectation that credit will loosen and Americans will go back to borrowing?  If so, does that mean that foreign countries like China are going to step into the void and start lending in a big way again (their lending to America is down, and lending from Americans to America is up).  Or is there another bubble on the way which will give Americans inflated assets to borrow against as they borrowed against their home values?  If so, I can’t see what it would be.  Certainly cap and trade can be turned into a new asset class, and maybe a new bubble, but it won’t give ordinary consumers much money…  Is there another bubble possibility I’m missing?

I’m constitutionally a bear, not a bull, so I don’t make the bull case scenario as well as I do the bear, but I’m not seeing where more consumer spending is coming from.  The stimulus is not getting to consumers in large enough amounts to offset other losses, and the huge bailouts for the financial sector are likewise mostly not making their way into the broader economy, but are going to fill in a rather larger hole.  Increased savings could lead to increased real investment, I suppose, but again, I don’t see that that money is mostly going to investment in the real economy.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t, yet, see a very strong bull  case scenario.  At this point it rests primarily upon cyclical factors like decreased inventory levels and business need for capital spending as well as on government stimulus, and perhaps that’s enough, but I’m not yet convinced.

Anyone want to make the bull case scenario?  Be happy to hear it.

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