Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just Like Lincoln

Yes, I know, we only have 4 more days before Barack Obama finally replaces the current occupant of the White House. Why get into a ruckus about Bush’s record? I guess the sheer enormity of the disasters that have befallen this country (and the planet) over the past 8 years makes mindless attempts to defend the record of the man who caused so many of them utterly intolerable to me.

This was prompted by my reading of this little tidbit on Talking Points Memo today about an article in Congressional Quarterly entitled (I kid you not) "History May See Lincoln-Like Greatness in Bush."

I can see what Richard L. Connor means. Bush, like Lincoln, has two arms, two legs and a head. In that sense, Bush is very "Lincoln-like."

Unfortunately, Connor's comparison crumbles after that.

I particularly like this tidbit:

Yes, there are any number of better decisions he could have made. Foremost among them would have been to bring a quick and decisive end to the war in Iraq shortly after it began.
Evidently, the idea of not invading Iraq in the first place seems not to have occurred to Connor. This indicates pretty clearly that he was vacationing on another planet for the past 6 years and thus never was informed that (1) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11; (2) there were no WMD in Iraq; (3) Mohammed Atta never met with any Czech spy in Prague as claimed by Dick Cheney and others (he was in the U.S. at the time); (4) the Iraqis did not, contra Bush and Cheney, seek uranium yellowcake in Africa; (5) the UN weapons inspectors were able (admittedly, with difficulty) to inspect all the potential weapons manufacturing and storage sites they demanded to see; (6) the UN sanctions (regardless how problematic in re their effects on the Iraqi population) were still in place, as were the no-fly zones; (7) reports from people in the CIA and other government agencies, the transcript published in El Pais of Bush's conversation with Spanish PM Aznar, and the Downing Street memo all show clearly that the mindset in the White House was straight out of Alice in Wonderland: "first the sentence, then the evidence."

There's also this:

...he was commander in chief when the United States was attacked at home on September 11, 2001. He was decisive in his response and showed admirable leadership both at home and abroad.
Well, he was decisive all right, but doesn't it matter to Connor whether the decisions make sense or not? Invading the wrong country (necessitating a diversion of resources away from the hunt for al Qaeda, which DID attack us on 9/11) doesn't strike me as the brightest move I've ever heard of. Nor can I find anything admirable about it.

Connor goes on:

The nation now appears headed for disastrous financial calamity, the worst since The Great Depression. His administration has been forceful in trying to bring calm and to allocate money to industries fighting to survive.

And the economic woes of this country--just like other monumental, sea-change problems--did not simply appear one day or go away the next. Sure, this happened under his watch but the seeds for our mortgage, home loan crisis and those of the domestic automobile industry collapse were sown long before Bush first took office.
My, my. Again, our Olympian president exhibited forcefulness in addressing the economic crisis. I guess that's one way to characterize the dispensing of $350 billion to banks and other non-bank institutions (like AIG) without one iota of oversight--without, by the way, doing a thing for the millions of people drowning in mortgage debt--y'know, the proximate cause of the credit crunch supposedly addressed by the bailout? The money, by the way, went to banks that were relatively stable--not "industries fighting to survive." As to the latter, they still can't get any credit because the recipients of Bush's largess were less than --ahem-- forceful about extending credit once they got the bailout funds.

And by the way, does Connor really believe that 28 years of relentless GOP pressure to deregulate everything in sight, coupled with a pronounced hostility to government, had nothing to do with the economic crisis? More to the point, is Connor unaware that the GOP-supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 broke down walls between commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies, thus removing federal oversight from banks and enabling the development of precisely the kinds of risky financial instruments that are at the heart of the current crisis? It is true that the GOP had some help from Democrats, but overwhelmingly, it was the GOP, the Bush administration definitely included, that pushed deregulation from 1981 on with an intensity and persistence bordering on mania. Does Connor truly think that had nothing to do with the economic crisis?

Here's another gem:

If we begin to expect that any chief executive of anything--be it a country or a Fortune 500 company--cannot make a mistake or two among the hundreds, perhaps, thousands of decisions they make, then our standards have reached the point of ridiculousness.
Yes, a mistake or two. Let's do a tally (just off the top of my head--feel free to add your own):

Iraq (see above)
Afghanistan (see above)
The economy (see above)
Hurricane Katrina
Global Warming
Shredding of signed treaties
Contempt for science
Contempt for intellectual inquiry (numerous reports on this can be found in the memoirs of former Bush administration officials)
Politicization and polarization of the country in the aftermath of 9/11
Contempt for diplomacy
Official sanction of torture
Trashing of habeas corpus
A woman’s right to choose

Where on earth did CQ get this guy?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surveying the Wreckage, Part 576

To get some idea of the sheer scale of the damage Bush & his cronies have done to our government for the past 8 years, take a look at this article in The American Prospect:

It's funny, but although the Prospect compiled quite a list, it somehow feels light. I'm sure there are many more atrocities, blunders and disasters in every category. I guess they had to narrow it down to meet length limits. I have a feeling we'll be mining this particular lode for the rest of our lives. I can't associate the term "productive" with the Bush maladministration, but they certainly have been industrious.

Did you hear that our soon-to-be-retiring (ahem) chief executive, not content to give farewell interview after interview, is now going to infest the airwaves with a farewell speech tomorrow [Correction--It'll be on Thursday.]? Like Sara Palin, he keeps burbling up into media coverage like a backed up toilet. Maybe all this frantic, last-minute self-promotion reflects a defensiveness over the overwhelming consensus that his administration has been a giant train wreck. Understanding is not justification, however. We've endured his idiocy for way too long. The least he can do is summon up enough grace to shut the hell up & sink back into the primordial swamp from whence he came. Kathy G says it all...

Special thanks for the tip to Avram & Linda.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Tax Cut Scam Cometh (Again)

Obama wants a large stimulus package to avoid having the recession morph into a full-blown depression. He also wants broad bipartisan support for whatever economic plan comes out of Congress. Republicans in Congress, to the surprise of no one who's followed their legislative and ideological history, are steadfast on only one item--more tax cuts. Gee, I wonder which quartile of the population they see as their constituency?

The Economic Policy Institute put out a chart on October 22, courtesy of Moody's, illustrating the relative effectiveness of various approaches to the problem. See for yourself how tax cuts measure versus food stamps, extensions to unemployment insurance and public works projects (to name a few) in terms of effectiveness.

Here's a rather stringent commentary by Brad DeLong about GOP objections to the proposed stimulus package.

Mark Thoma takes a more nuanced approach to the issue of tax cuts, but he too is highly skeptical of the claims and motives of Republicans:.

Clearly, tax cuts can't be the most important component in a package designed to get the economy moving again. As DeLong notes in another post, they may, however, serve a useful political purpose for Obama.

And what would be the estimated effect of the proposed Obama plan on unemployment over the next two years? Tyler Cowan offers a graph showing that without the stimulus plan, unemployment reaches its peak & starts to decline a year later than it will if the stimulus plan goes into effect.

In case you're wondering, a 1% increase in unemployment--at current employment levels--adds up to approximately 1.5 million additional people out of work. (Since the current level isn't constant, 1.5 million is a very rough guess by a non-statistician. The point I'm trying to make, though, is not the specific number, but rather that differences in percentages can mean a lot of human beings.)

Keep this in mind as the debate unfolds over the economic plan in Congress. And now that you've been enlightened (!?!?), please contact your Congresscritters or, if you don't happen to live in a place where said creatures need to be pressured to do the right thing, pass the links above to friends/family/colleagues/etc. living in (ahem) less fortunate places and convince them to contact their alleged representatives in both houses of Congress and urge them to support a stimulus plan that does not rely on tax cuts as a central means of dealing with the economic crisis.