Thursday, September 25, 2008

Suspended campaign, my ass

In a surprise move, John McCain "suspended" his campaign yesterday in order to return to Wall Street to work on a resolution to the financial crisis. He suggested that Friday's debate be postponed, a suggestion that was promptly rejected by Barack Obama's campaign.
Did he really suspend his campaign?  Two major goals of campaigning are (i) making the nightly news and (ii) looking good on it.

By those measures, McCain's so-called "campaign suspension" is the best piece of campaigning he's done so far.  

Just as long as nobody notices that McCain isn't really that much of an asset when it comes to dealing with financial crises...

Campaigning score: 10/10.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Palin meets with world leaders

From CNN:

The Alaska governor initially said that no reporters would be allowed to sit in on her meeting with Karzai. She planned to allow in only photographers and one television crew.
Photos are allowed, reporters are not.  In other words, Palin wants to be seen to be competent enough to meet with world leaders, but doesn't trust her competence enough to have people hear what she is going to say.

Obama speaks to Green Bay

Obama speaks in Green Bay:

Obama responds to some criticism that he has not been specific about his policies.  Here are a few of the things he is going to do, beginning on his first day of office:
  • go through the budget page by page, and eliminate every program that is not working
  • eliminate earmarks
  • stop corporations from avoiding taxes
  • make Wall Street fair, open and honest
It sounds like a good list.  I wonder what he's going to do on his second day in office.

In passing, Jimmy Carter tried to move to zero-based budgeting, where each program office would have to justify every dime of spending.  Of course it fell through, because government spending is so big that it is administratively impossible to review every program, every year.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Scary words on the bailout

Disturbing reading on how the latest bailout would put the treasury's actions beyond the rule of law:

Let's think of the last time we gave this administration a few billion dollars to spend on a hurricane recovery program - more than half the money was as good as thrown away.  This time we're talking about $700 billion...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Debates and sound bites

The vice presidential debate will be structured in such a way that Sarah Palin will not have to be put on the spot by Joe Biden.  Heaven forbid that a woman with a fair chance of becoming president should have to be put on the spot!
McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.
But we don't have debates for candidates to present sound bites on their positions, there are a lot of other opportunities for that.  And Palin has certainly demonstrated the ability to repeat sound bites; in fact almost all of her public appearances have been about demonstrating that ability.

What is amazing about the media coverage on Palin to date that is that it has all been focused on exactly this ability to recite sound bites.  Did she remember her briefing notes?  Did they brief her on the Bush Doctrine?

But the ability to be briefed and then recite your lines to a reporter has nothing to do with being president.  The real story is that she is not doing anything more than reciting lines, and that nobody expects her to do more.

Given Palin's unwillingness to give us anything but McCain's sound bites, the only question that matters is who is going to be writing the briefing notes if she suddenly becomes president.  The Republican old guard?  Her pastor or high school friends?  Somebody else?  It's important, because that's who will be running the country.

First we'll kill all the short sellers

There is a bunch of nonsense out there about how the end-of-week stock market rally demonstrates that the SEC's strategy of banning short sales on financial stocks was a success.

Total nonsense.

An equivalently good strategy would have been to force all Americans with last names beginning with the letter F to buy financial stocks.  The market would go up, that's what markets do when people buy stock, whether willingly or under duress.  It doesn't prove that it's a good strategy to force certain individuals to buy stocks.

This is the madness of the current political season.  Stocks are meant to go up.  If stocks go down, we must change the rules of our financial system until they go up again.

Though there is one country that has figured out how to stop their stock market from ever falling...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short scapegoats

Not surprisingly, Professor Bainbridge says it better than me:
Repeat after me: The trouble is not with short-sellers. The trouble is not with short-sellers. The trouble is with an over-levered financial system built on a house of cards comprised of under-collateralized toxic paper that was applauded all the way up by “housing is the American dream” nutters who couldn’t see that vast expansions in thinly-traded credit are a path to economic ruin.

Fire the chairman of the SEC?

It's twice in one day for McCain, but he's the one getting the press.  I'm sure if Obama had a statement, he would be featured here as well.

The article is here:

McCain wants to fire the chairman of the SEC for letting "speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino.

Just what did you think the stock market was, Mr. McCain?  Have you not noticed the big writing when you log into your brokerage account: NOT FDIC INSURED, INVESTMENTS MAY LOSE VALUE.  Remain silent when the market goes up, and then fire somebody when it goes down.  I think that's exactly the strategy that got our banks into this crisis.  (more on this here)

There was someone else in history who spent this much time railing against speculators.  Lenin.

(Not to mention that even if the SEC chairman was somehow to blame, firing him now is a little bit belated.)

But the financial crisis is dominating the news, and nobody understands it, least of all the candidates.  But they have to find something to say about it, so they're looking for the most innocuous sound bites possible, that create the illusion of action without betraying their confusion.  By that measure, McCain is doing pretty good, but that's exactly the kind of comment that this blog despises.

McCain's policy grade: 3/10  for effort, and for his awareness and acknowledgement of the financial crisis.

Scary words of today

John McCain speaking in Michigan:
"I'm here to send a message to Washington and Wall Street: We are not going to leave the workers here in Michigan hung out to dry while we give billions in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street. It is time to get our auto industry back on its feet. It's time for a new generation of cars and for loans to build the facilities that will make them."
Because in the midst of a financial crisis caused by bad loans, what we need most are more government loans to uncompetitive companies.  Auto manufacturers begging for a handout is sheer opportunism - they were failing long before the financial crisis got underway.

But the bailout wave is creating a new political strategy.  Now that the government is giving out billions, just promise billions and billions to everybody.

Are Americans smart enough to realize that government is not a money tree, and that promise billions for everybody could have worse consequences than what we're currently seeing?

McCain's policy grade: 2/10.  Pure pandering, and an economically disastrous policy.  The 2 points are only because this is my first post and so I thought I should be nice.

...and I just can't take it anymore

I didn't want to start a political blog.

But I can't help myself.  The election season is making me crazy.

Our politicians pander to us, tell us things they think we want to hear, things to make us think they are like us.  Instead of substance and policy, we get sound bites carefully targeted to tickle our stereotypes and create some kind of false connection between us and our candidates.

But democracy is about the population choosing the policies, not just the pretty face that gets to be president, and whether it is black or white, a man or a woman, somehow like us or not.

How can we get our politicians to treat us as though we care what they're going to do in office, instead of just what they are going to look like?

It starts with de-electioneering, digging deep into their hogwash and calling out the self-serving intentions behind the things they say.  That's what this place is about.