Hank Paulson’s announced some dramatic measures to prevent a Fannie/Freddie collapse where, among other things, he’s going to ask congress to approve an increase in the debt ceiling so that the government can buy up a lot of their stock. Basically, it seems like a quasi-nationalization to me though I’ll be interested to see what more serious econ types think in the morning.
Meanwhile — the shocking true tale of how these companies managed to evade oversight is worth a read. Chuck Schumer done bad.
On NBC’s Meet the Press this morning, host Tom Brokaw challenged the claim that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) balance the budget by the end of his first term. Economists say that “you, in fact, can’t balance the budget in four years,” Brokaw told top McCain adviser Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina, however, disagreed, claiming that there is “a set of economists” who support the McCain campaign’s claims:
BROKAW: In fairness, economic analysts who are looking at both of these plans, say that they don’t add up. That, you in fact, can’t balance the budget in four years and in fact, you cannot get the revenues that you say that you can.
FIORINA: Actually, there are a set of economists who believe we can balance the budget in four years.
Fiorina is likely referring to the statement signed by 300 economists that the McCain campaign released when it announced McCain’s balanced budget pledge. The statement said the economists “enthusiastically” supported McCain’s economic plan.
But when contacted by reporters last week, many of those economists actually expressed deep reservations about McCain’s balanced budget pledge:
- “He’s not going to balance the budget.” [William Albrecht, professor emeritus at the University of Iowa]
- “[But] I am worried that continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will tear apart our social fabric and defeat any economic proposal to reduce the deficit and stimulate growth. Guns are crowding out butter.” [Michael Connolly, Professor of Economics, University of Miami]
- “No, I think some flexibility to run deficits and surpluses, although I agree that the deficit is too large.” [Glenn MacDonald, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy at Washington University in St. Louis]
While the McCain campaign has repeatedlyfip-flopped on its pledge to balance the budget, it seems that economists have consistently considered his proposal unrealistic.
Just remember to accuse John McCain of being like Bush is to slander his war service or something. Anyways, he’s Wolf Blitzer talking to McCain surrogate Mark Sanford:
BLITZER: Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward over these many years as opposed to now what John McCain supports?
SANFORD: Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of — I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. Take, for instance the contrast on NAFTA. I mean, I think that the bigger issue is credibility in where one is coming from, are they consistent where they come from.
Ooops! I’m not really sure what Sanford’s trying to say here about NAFTA but there’s no contrast there. There once upon a time was a substantial contrast on tax policy, but in order to win the nomination and court the GOP sociopathic donor base he’s no firmly pledged himself to not only continue but intensify the Bush course on tax policy.
Washington Posttakes a look at DC’s looming streetcar construction. I’m excited about this but, as they say, “Streetcars share lanes with automobiles and ride on rails built in existing streets.”
We should really be aspiring to have our streetcars run at least substantial portions of their routes in dedicated lanes. A streetcar in a dedicated lane not only can hold a lot of people but will hold a lot of people — running quickly and reasonably frequently, thus presenting itself as an attractive option that takes a lot of cars off the roads. A streetcar that spends a lot of time stuck in traffic isn’t necessarily going to be a very useful option, but the routes most prone to heavy congestion tend to be the routes where it makes the most sense to consider locating a line.
Not only is Ali Frick write to point out that John McCain wasn’t nearly as strong a dissenter from Bush’s tactical vision in Iraq as his campaign likes to say, but it can’t be emphasized enough how purely tactical his criticisms of the Bush administration were. Tactics are, of course, an important subject. But Iraq represents a fundamental error of strategy — in short, a bad idea, not a good idea that was poorly implemented — and on the strategic issues McCain has differed from Bush only insofar as McCain got to these ideas first and adheres to them more rigidly than Bush does.
He was the original political defender of “rogue state rollback” as the centerpiece of America’s approach to the world, after all, and as best one can tell he still sees things this way and still sees the specter of appeasement lurking behind every effort to deal with problems constructively.
On the question of how problematic it is that you typically need some kind of an “in” to get a job, I think you need to distinguish between some different cases of connections. After all, a lot of the people I know are people I got to know through work. If you get in touch with someone because you’re working in the same field and admire/respect each other work, and that becomes a semi-social relationship, it doesn’t seem at all problematic for that kind of “in” to perhaps pay off in work terms down the road. The only alternative would be for people to deliberately avoid social interaction with people whose work they admire.
Still, I think Peter Suderman is understating the scope of the problem, particularly in fields without clear metrics of quality. People obtain positions of some power/influence/whatever and then use those positions to build, in effect, patronage networks wherein they get to hand out favors to friends and hope that the ability to hand out favors will help shield then from critical scrutiny. I think a lot of journalism needs to be understood in this vein.
The Times of London reports that President Bush “has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official”:
Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.
“Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use US military bases in Iraq for logistical support.
“This administration will not attack Iran. This has already been decided,” the official stated. But the offical added, “I know he doesn’t believe that anything but force will deter Iran.”
This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, Carly Fiorina, surrogate for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), defended McCain’s record on Iraq. She insisted he had stood up to President Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly, and declared those who say McCain was “aligned” with Bush on Iraq are trying to “change history”:
John McCain stood up against George Bush and Don Rumsfeld in the prosecution of the Iraq war for many years. … To say that John McCain was aligned with President Bush on the prosecution of the war in Iraq is to change history.
It is Fiorina who is trying to change history. From the very start, McCain has enthusiastically embraced Bush’s Iraq war policy:
“I think that Blix’s report will be fairly definitive. But Mr. Blix has made a lot of reports over the years, and I think the judgment made by the United States of America will — and the president of the United States — will prevail here.” [NBC, 2/12/03]
“I believe as strongly today as ever, the mission [in Iraq] was necessary, achievable and noble. For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration.” [GOP Convention, 8/30/04]
“The fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I’ve been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.” [Meet the Press, 6/19/05]
MR. GREGORY: Do you, do you have confidence in the president and his national security team to lead the war at this stage?
SEN. McCAIN: I do. I do. I have confidence in the president and I believe that he is well aware of the severity of the situation. [Meet the Press, 8/20/06]
“I’m sticking with the president in this respect [on Iraq]. This is our last chance. The consequences of failure are catastrophic.” [CNN, 2/13/07]
“I am proud of this president’s strategy in Iraq.” [Receiving Bush's endorsement, 2/13/08]
Am I the only one who thinks it’s strange that precisely at the moment when we’re seeing punditocratic cries for Barack Obama to acknowledge the “facts on the ground” in Iraq, and reject his timetable plan the actual facts on Iraq are developing in the direction of Iraqi insistence on a timetable? Well, I can’t be the only one. Meanwhile, more facts on the ground include what appears to be the definitive breakdown of SOFA/SFA negotiations. And as Dr. Irak explains, this failure is plausibly the result of the Bush administration’s opposition to timetables:
Because talks were not occurring against the backdrop of negotiating a U.S. withdrawal and a clear signal that we did not want to have the rights and prerogatives to stay in Iraq indefinitely, two things happened:
1. Iraqi sovereignty and nationalist anxieties were exacerbated by the perception that we were negotiating a permanent occupation (regardless of how many times the administration asserted it wasn’t seeking permanent bases). This made it difficult for Iraqi officials–including those that wanted a long-term agreement negotiated under Bush–to sign on to anything.
2. U.S. negotiators framed the whole thing to the Iraqis as us wanting to negotiate a way to stay in Iraq. This reversed the leverage in negotiations, making us appear increasingly desperate to give the Iraqis concessions so we could stick around indefinitely. This made it look like we needed them more than they needed us, which is completely back-ass-ward.
I’m not sure I would chalk this all up to appearances, but by and large that’s the right way to think about it. In the context of a framework for withdrawal, US military cooperation with the Iraqi government during the interim is viable. But in the Bush/McCain context with the shadow of endless occupation on the table, it’s not possible to work anything out. Now that said, the United States is a huge rich powerful country and I’m sure a McCain administration determined to stay in Iraq indefinitely could prevail upon the Iraqi government to see things their way. But that approach cuts against the grain of the actual situation.