Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're Screwed, part 1,000,001

Where in the fucking Constitution ...

The 1,279-page House bill would create a new federal agency dedicated to consumer protection, establish a council of regulators to police the financial landscape for systemic risks, initiate oversight of the vast derivatives market and give the government power to wind down large, troubled firms whose collapse could endanger the entire financial system. The legislation also would give shareholders an advisory say on executive compensation, increase transparency of credit-ratings agencies and set aside billions of dollars to aid unemployed homeowners.

But, don't worry. The bill was crafted by Barney Frank, based on a "white paper" drafted by Obama himself.

But, don't worry. Frank was willing to "compromise."

He cut a deal with the big banks, Republicans and moderate Democrats who objected to a provision that would allow state consumer protection laws to exceed federal standards. He exempted groups such as retailers, lawyers, auto dealers and real-estate brokers from oversight by the new consumer agency

The fuck you say? He cut a deal with lawyers? Imagine that.

In other news ... this sums up rather nicely the tactic we hear so often of "THEY DID IT TOO!"

Democrats have excused their binge-spending and oversized deficits by pointing back at Republicans and saying, "Look who's talking." And it's true: Republicans have to own their inability to control spending when they were in power. But any independents out there who thought they were getting more honest and less partisan government with the election of Barack Obama should take a good hard look at how this year's appropriations fight is shaping up.

As Brian outlines below, the omnibus spending bill that just passed the House rivals any of the earmark-laden monstrosities from the Dennis Hastert era, both in baseline inflation and in pure waste. It is solid evidence that Democrats' jibes at Republicans for failing to control spending are mere rhetorical lures designed to attract independent voters. The other way to exercise fiscal discipline is to raise taxes. But, as Obama never tires of pointing out, his party has cut taxes, or more accurately it has handed out billions in payroll-tax rebates and other forms of "targeted" tax relief. At some point, Democrats will almost certainly let the top tax rates snap back to pre-Bush levels, but that won't be enough to pay for all the spending they want. Hark, independents: The only thing the Democrats have changed with respect to the nation's finances is the magnitude of the deficits and the duration of time that we are likely to endure them.

Now, pay attention. This is important. I brought this up yesterday.

First, while most people have focused on health care and cap-and-trade, discretionary spending has leaped by 25 percent since the Democrats took the Congressional majority three years ago — plus $311 billion in additional “stimulus” discretionary spending. This comes to $561 billion more in discretionary spending over these three years than if they had limited growth to the baseline inflation rate. Worse, this new spending has pushed the 2011–2020 discretionary spending baseline $1.7 trillion higher than three years ago. We’ll be paying this bill for decades.

Even with a massive budget deficit, this Congress raised their own office allowances by 8.4 percent, and gave huge increases to LIHEAP (120 percent), the Corporation for National and Community Service (mostly Americorps, 30 percent), Transportation Security Administration (20 percent) and the NEA and NEH (8.1 percent each).

Second, remember President Obama’s pledge to “slash earmarks to no greater than 1994 levels” of 1,318? He followed up that promise by signing a pork-laden omnibus bill in February, and then promising once again to cut pork next time. House Democrats made similar pledges. Well, this bill contains 5,224 earmarks, bringing the year’s total to 8,939, and with a remaining defense bill that will likely push the total past 10,000 (this year’s whoppers includes $750,000 for the World Food Prize in Des Moines).

Congress comes up with this shit. It's up to the president to sign or not. Bush didn't have the power or clout to refuse, and he got blamed for the spending (which was presented to him). Will Obama do as he promised? Refuse to sign the pork? Cut earmarks?

We anxiously await.


Not that the press corps cares anymore, but the omnibus also continues the earmark explosion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to end when she was trying to oust Republicans in 2006. The Heritage Foundation counts 5,224 earmarks, bringing the total for the year to about 10,000, or about 23 for every Congressional district. There is money for bike paths, skate board parks, museums, water-taxis to resort towns, and other absolute necessities.

But, you know, it's not really funny.

After so much double talk, we've concluded this is all part of a conscious political strategy. Spend so much and run up the deficit to unprecedented levels, then turn around and claim that there's a fiscal crisis that can only be solved with higher taxes. They spend, you pay.

Think about that. They're gonna raise our taxes, and you and I are going to have to figure out how to make it by with less, while THEY spend more and more to buy their political power. With bike paths and water-taxis. And then Obama turns around and says we need to make "hard choices."

Obama has a GREAT opportunity to show he can make one of those hard choices.