Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"tis A Shameful Mark

* * *

I can’t wait until the passage of two months – things are too dire.

I really don’t want to give the new president an “F” – you know, a failing grade – because I like him. It’s really great and refreshing to have a president who can speak English and who intends to convey ideas with his words.*

But the President is failing. He’s busy designing and implementing the rehabilitative care, and the ongoing healthy lifestyle, of a patient that is laying on an Emergency Room gurney bleeding to death, with multiple wounds.

I’m sure he and his staff have noticed the multiple attacks, from both sides of the aisle [nay; from all sides], on his failure to move or act at all on the paralyzed financial system, and his failure to fully fund [ah, alliteration . . . .] a stimulus, while overfunding long-term goals.

Okay, there remains a healthy debate about the level of funding for long-term goals. A systemic change, as it were. But as I said, that’s like arguing whether to emphasize whole grains, meats, beans, or legumes in the diet of

a comatose patient, in shock, with it’s jaws wired shut, and the wires a’rustin’ . . . .

The stimulus was woefully, woefully small. Inadequate. Paltry.

And the uncertainty from inaction on financial systems has roiled not just “the market,” but the world.

As we always said about George III, “ Jesus Fucking Christ!”

* * *



*also pleasant to have a president who's not a war criminal!

16 comments:

mister muleboy said...

Notwithstanding Tom's post here: before any of you climbs up on the guardrail of a bridge, consider that the banks may not all be dying:

thoughtful people are aware that, once things get settled and predictable [hear that, Prez?], good things are eminently possible.

keep sharp objects in drawers 'til then, of course. . . .

Tomanonymous said...

Geez! You gave the Nats four (maybe 3.5) full seasons before you threw them under the bus.

A. Hamilton said...

Yeah but Tom has inside poop about the outfit that's running out of insurance money. When that happens it's a short hop to Thunderdome.

Thomas Paine said...

I'm not working on any inside poop.

You just can't actually be President, stand out there and accurately describe this as a potentially-calamitous situation -- arguably the worst since the Great Depression (when everybody recognizes that it really is the worst) -- and then describe health care reform and systemic educational reform as being the solution. Those are solutions to a different, related problem. I'm not beefing about the overall spending plan -- that's a different issue, for a different day and with different concerns.

But a stimulus has to stimulate, and had to be gigantic. It wasn't, and it was not coupled to a financial package.

Now I'm digressing into specifics. Not inside poop.

eff me
You can't do that -- not if you want something other than an "F"

The Jestaplero said...

Isn't saying the president is "failing" after nine weeks in office a little like saying that your team is losing after going three up-three down in the first inning with home team coming up to bat?

I think what you mean to say is that you disagree with his approach to the financial crisis. That's fine--I agree with you the stimulus was too small. I criticize him for entertaining GOP demands to cut the stimulus package to make some sort of point about postpartisan politics--did he or anybody actually think a smaller stimulus package would make it more effective?--but I can't conclude that it has failed or is failing before seeing the results, and knowing full well he can go back for more if the first package comes up short.

I also don't understand what you mean by his "failure to move or act at all on the paralyzed financial system" -- the news today is full of controversy raging about his bank bailouts, and the system does not seem "paralyzed" - credit seems to be moving again. (I figured the banks would start lending again--they don't really make any moeny otherwise!).

Obama clearly feels that addressing health care and education is part and parcel to addressing the current crisis. I'm not convinced, and you strongly feel he is making an error, but I think it's too early to declare it a failure.

Thomas Paine said...

Isn't saying the president is "failing" after nine weeks in office a little like saying that your team is losing after going three up-three down in the first inning with home team coming up to bat?

Not at all. It’s more like watching someone go up hacking against a pitcher with noted control problems, and then hacking at pitches to make a bad out. Or failing to run out a popup – in the same inning that he failed to take the sure out, but instead tried to make a double-play from deep in the hole – putting his team behind. Something like that.

It’s also an interim mark. The President is failing. It doesn’t purport to be a final grade; it acknowledges that we’re not nine weeks in

I think what you mean to say is that you disagree with his approach to the financial crisis.

I don’t think so – I tend to agree with his approach. I am appalled that he is failing in his approach.

That's fine--I agree with you the stimulus was too small. I criticize him for entertaining GOP demands to cut the stimulus package to make some sort of point about postpartisan politics--did he or anybody actually think a smaller stimulus package would make it more effective?—

I was equally bothered that he turned over the most important issue that he was likely to face to a Congress that neither had his heavy, impressive stick, nor cared nearly as much about ensuring his success [when confronted with the more-easily realized individual gains of the impressive non-stimulative spending that watered down the stimulus and handed Republicans meaningful ammunition against the package.

but I can't conclude that it has failed or is failing before seeing the results, and knowing full well he can go back for more if the first package comes up short.


Here I disagree with you strongly. He can never again pass legislation as the newly-elected, blemishless president seeking to solve the “catastrophe” that he identified while wholly unburdened with anything that went before. For instance: he can’t act without being tied now to AIG and bonuses. He doesn’t have his clean slate – which was a powerful, powerful tool. And nothing in my post addressed whether the stimulus will fail – I accuse him [his administration] of failing to maximize the likely success of the stimulus.


I also don't understand what you mean by his "failure to move or act at all on the paralyzed financial system" -- the news today is full of controversy raging about his bank bailouts, and the system does not seem "paralyzed" - credit seems to be moving again. (I figured the banks would start lending again--they don't really make any moeny otherwise!).

Geithner announced the outline of a skeleton of a design for a plan for addressing troubled assets about nine weeks ago.
They have fleshed it out – it’s now a scheme for a shape of a likely idea for an apparatus – it will focus on a blend of “private – public” elements.
They still haven’t announced their plan, or moved or acted on it. They stretched the status quo by continuing some TARP funding. But they haven’t acted.
The controversy raging is about the sideshow of the bonuses -- an important sideshow demonstrating their relative failure to explain the hard choices they face. They face a notable angry populist sentiment – and one that is justified. Whether they eave the bonuses in place or address them, there is both a substantive effect, and a political one. I argue that they’ve done little to nothing to address either, or prepare people for addressing either.

And credit isn’t really moving again at all; at least not the type of credit or substantial credit necessary to meaningfully stave off depression. Consumer lending is trickling out, and banks are making some loans. But the recession-ending lending [ooh] that they need and want will come from private capital that’s sitting it out on the sidelines, furious and worried that there’s still no plan or certainty – almost the only thing they need to start moving again. Which was part of my criticism. Doing something, even if it’s “wrong,” is likely to be better than doing “nothing” [even if it’s not nothing, but is instead tiny, incremental, easily-sellable things].


Obama clearly feels that addressing health care and education is part and parcel to addressing the current crisis.

Yes. It’s at the heart of my criticism. It is an earea that he’s comfortable with, so and about which he has strong convictions, so he’s moving forward. I didn’t like it in the last guy, nor in this guy.

I'm not convinced, and you strongly feel he is making an error, but I think it's too early to declare it a failure.

I’m not decalrting it a failure. I’m giving him a failing grade. It is only the third inning. But the idea was to get out and mount a commanding, commanding lead, because you’ve gotta jump on this “Rodney Depression” pitcher early, and the Econ Doldrums can get a real head of steam if they get it in their heads that they’re not gonna get trounced. . . .


I'm full of hope it won't fail; over time, it surely won't "fail" in the sense that the economy will right itself. But a fourteen-month big recession is worlds apart from a three or five years of stagnation and despair.

As the president explained over the weekend, the fundamentals of the economy are sound. It's important, though, that he kick the ass of the recession now before it starts to think it has a chance.

Thomas Paine said...

lost this paragraph somewhere:

I don't think so at all. The whole point of the stimulus, and the whole point of addressing a paralyzed financial system, is that time is of the essence -- the huge and quick stimulus was intended to avert the "depressionary" effect of slowdown -- the self-accelerating, self-increasing, self-perpetuating slowdown. Maybe it'll be enough. But I think it was a failure, and there by definition can't be a make-up for what I'm talking about; in this game, you get more points for first-inning runs. Same thing if the continued drain on markets and asset value continues because of the financial system; the value can be "regained" over ten or twenty years, but staunching losses is qualitatively different.

The Jestaplero said...

he turned over the most important issue that he was likely to face to a Congress that neither had his heavy, impressive stick, nor cared nearly as much about ensuring his success

Agreed. I totally didn't get that. He seemed to want to tread lightly, and prove he was Mr Bipartisan, and the fucks in the GOP didn't vote for it anyway. Now, if it fails, what does he have to show for it? Total botch. That showed, BTW, it's not just Rush who wants him to fail - ALL Republicans want him to fail, regardless of what's best for the country.

He can never again pass legislation as the newly-elected, blemishless president seeking to solve the “catastrophe” that he identified while wholly unburdened with anything that went before.

Yeah, Paul Krugman was saying the same thing, and was all bummed out about it. I disagree. I think there is a lot of sense to a "second wave" of spending to build on the first and I seriously doubt he won't be able to find the votes for it if we're still in a recession/depression.

he can’t act without being tied now to AIG and bonuses.

What, are the GOP going to say "No way! We won't approve any more funds to rescue the US--the world economy, because of how Geithner botched the AIG bonuses!" They have no standing to make that argument (being on record against compensation limits--for bankers, not the UAW) and who cares if they make it? Dems control Congress, he'll get the funds.

ME: I also don't understand what you mean by his "failure to move or act at all"...

YOU: Geithner announced the outline of a skeleton of a design for a plan for addressing troubled assets about nine weeks ago. They have fleshed it out – it’s now a scheme for a shape of a likely idea for an apparatus – it will focus on a blend of “private – public” elements...They stretched the status quo by continuing some TARP funding.


Oh, OK, so they have "moved" and "acted"...just not in the manner you would prefer (which was my point).

This is semantics, but it's too early to say he's failing. We won't know that until...he fails. He may...succeed. In which case, he is currently...winning. But I won't say that.

Especially since I don't like the way he is handling things, and agree with most of your complaints.

Thomas Paine said...

he turned over the most important issue that he was likely to face to a Congress that neither had his heavy, impressive stick, nor cared nearly as much about ensuring his success

Agreed. I totally didn't get that. He seemed to want to tread lightly, and prove he was Mr Bipartisan, and the fucks in the GOP didn't vote for it anyway. Now, if it fails, what does he have to show for it? Total botch. That showed, BTW, it's not just Rush who wants him to fail - ALL Republicans want him to fail, regardless of what's best for the country.


I think we're talking about two very different things. He wasn't harmed by the GOP, but by the Democrats.

* * * I seriously doubt he won't be able to find the votes for it if we're still in a recession/depression.

Much like leaving your house ten minutes later than normal during rush hour can get you to work an hour later, a stimulus package if we're "still in a recession/depression" would have to be orders of magnitude larger to have the same effect, I fear. Except many economists explain that they think stagflation, were it to occur, wouldn't be remediable by stimulus. I'm not an economist. so I can't say. I can say that I think politically he had the whip hand on January 21, and will slowly see the whip lose effect over time. Not an Obama thing, but a presidential thing.

he can’t act without being tied now to AIG and bonuses.

What, are the GOP going to say "No way! We won't approve any more funds to rescue the US--the world economy, because of how Geithner botched the AIG bonuses!" They have no standing to make that argument (being on record against compensation limits--for bankers, not the UAW) and who cares if they make it? Dems control Congress, he'll get the funds.


We see this fundamentally differently. I don't view this as a partisan problem that will be characterized by GOP v. Dems; he has a problem of offering bitter medicine to a populace that has gone populist. Again, I think he had the whip hand and unsullied moral high ground on January 21, and no longer has it. And each successive day that he has to govern, with all the messy compromise and messy reality that accompanies governing, the less persuasive he can be [or, more accurately, the more obstacles he must overcome]. The sullying isn't losing ground to a GOP -- they're irrelevant, except as a magnet around which popular dissatisfaction can coalesce.

ME: I also don't understand what you mean by his "failure to move or act at all"...

YOU: Geithner announced the outline of a skeleton of a design for a plan for addressing troubled assets about nine weeks ago. They have fleshed it out – it’s now a scheme for a shape of a likely idea for an apparatus – it will focus on a blend of “private – public” elements...They stretched the status quo by continuing some TARP funding.

Oh, OK, so they have "moved" and "acted"...just not in the manner you would prefer (which was my point).


My humour was poorly executed and lost -- they haven't moved or acted at all. They've "announced" plans. It isn't that it's not in a manner I prefer -- I don't really have a preference. Part of my incredible dissatisfaction and failing interim is because there isn't an obviously preferable course of action -- meaning just get on with any action that's predictable. Un;ess you're saying that doing nothing and blowing air about eventually ramping up a plan is their "action," and that it's one I don't prefer -- then you're right and I'm a detractor. But other than appearing to reject a Govt. "bad asset" bank in favour of a mix of private/public actors [private, with govt loss-sharing guarantees], what have they really even proposed for the financial system? And I say "appearing" because that was a Geithner element, and L.Summers has reiterated it on Sunday talk shows as the "direction," but there's no PLAN, much less action. . . .

This is semantics, but it's too early to say he's failing. We won't know that until...he fails. He may...succeed. In which case, he is currently...winning. But I won't say that.

Well jeezus, if it weren't for semantics, we'd never have had these blogs for a week! ;-)

As I said, I give him a failing mark -- but it's an interim mark in March. But if a guy didn't hustle and let a cheap run in, and then didn't run out a popup, or tried to pull a slow outside pitch when he should be hitting behind the runner, I'd give him an "F" -- he might still hit a two-run homer to win it, but why put the team in a hole?

I haven't said he's failed. I say he's failed to accomplish what he could have accomplished more easily, and that it's a dangerous thing to do.

Especially since I don't like the way he is handling things, and agree with most of your complaints.


If I'd bitched about it but not given him an "F" on the interim, we might not have had this fun exchange.

We;;, "fun" like "root canal" for 99.48% of the twelve readers here . . . . but i think for for you and me.

The Jestaplero said...

Again, I think he had the whip hand and unsullied moral high ground on January 21, and no longer has it.

Bill Clinton's approval ratings were at their highest....after he was impeached for having sex with Lewinski in the Oval Office.

Alls I'm saying...

The Jestaplero said...

If I'd bitched about it but not given him an "F" on the interim, we might not have had this fun exchange.

Heh...no, I actually thought about that before I posted. We have substantive--not just formative--disagreements as well.

Thomas Paine said...

We have substantive--not just formative--disagreements as well.

I know that we have them about B3s and about Phil Spector's output, but I wonder what they are on this topic.

Thomas Paine said...

No one should assume from my last comment that I view the events so far [the "mistakes" by the administration that I've described] as merely mistakes of form -- I think they're substantive. I just didn't see where mister Jestaplero and I disagreed on the moves so far; our disagreements seemed more in whether they were significant or should be described as "failings."

But we didn't do a lot of exploring on the substance, and Jestaplero may view the stimulus portion as large enough, or may iew the additional or later programs as sufficiently stimulative. He may also favor the relative inactivity in dealing with the financial system and management of "toxic" assets, and substantively supports the current approach.

Mayhaps we'll open a new post on policy. . . .

The Jestaplero said...

But we didn't do a lot of exploring on the substance, and Jestaplero may view the stimulus portion as large enough

We actually did discuss that, and I said it was too small and criticized him for wussing out to the Congressional R's. Remember?

I largely share your criticisms of his moves thus far.

I think our biggest diagreement of substance is that you say Obama had one shot at this and he blew it. I think you're wrong. But only time will tell.

Sir George Martin said...

We actually did discuss that, and I said it was too small and criticized him for wussing out to the Congressional R's. Remember?

I did remember. It was a naked ploy to elicit policy discussion.


I think our biggest diagreement of substance is that you say Obama had one shot at this and he blew it. I think you're wrong. But only time will tell.

Then pretty much no disagreement. He doesn't have one shot, he has every day. And while I think he humped it up, and blew his chance to do it in February -- and each day he'll be further in -- it'll probably just end up costing more money and time. Maybe neither. I don't know how it comes out.

But our disagreement is probably reading similar essays looking for a lot of the same things, and just differing on the grade he gets on his interim.

Although I cry long tears about this.

TOM Orrell said...

It’s delightful. An enjoyable read.
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