It is hilarious that some are trying to position last weeks’s budget proposition defeats as a ‘tax revolt’.  Certainly some people voted no to keep their taxes put, but just as many on the left voted NO because we saw them as totally inadequate solutions, the proverbial kicking of the can down the road (and not very far at that).

I didn’t vote.  I knew they were all going down so didn’t bother.  But I have to confess I had to restrain myself: For a while I intended to vote YES just from listening to all the Howard Jarvis anti-tax commercials.

We need a real solution.  That’s why I support an end to the 2/3 rule, and I’m glad about the possibility of a constitutional convention next year that would address the complete un-governability of the state.

Nice graph

May 25, 2009

Cool graph from Strategas Research Partners via Ritholtz, is a good reminder of two things:

  1. Just how much LESS the top 1% earners are paying in taxes right now than historically.
  2. Just how stable federal spending has been, around 15% to 22% of GDP since the 40’s until the 2000’s (I assume this is due to the Iraq war and maybe prescription drug benefits).  This is a much better way to look at it than in dollar terms, which is what small-government advocates always use.

Cheney is pushing too far.  As public opinion continues to move towards repairing the Bush wrongs and looking back with cooler heads, this statement will be remembered as the epitome of condecension and dubious morality.

Girl can beatbox

May 24, 2009

h/t C&L

Rick Santorum waxes poetic on the floor, and earns a Hewitt nomination at Andrew Sullivan’s:

The other thing we have to do is we have to stand up and say, look, America — Conservatives believe in the stewardship of patrimony. In other words, there are things in America that are really good, that work, have worked for 200 years. And we have a guy named Barack Obama who’s trying to fundamentally rewrite everything, change our economy, change our social structure, change our foreign policy, to something new, something fashionable, something cool. Well, we’re not cool, we’re not fashionable

I’m not sure why this got a Hewitt though, which is “named after the absurd partisan fanatic, Hugh Hewitt, is given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous, and far out of the mainstream of American life and politics”.

I read it as a pretty accurate description of Conservatism in America and how they sincerely view Obama.

Rachel Maddow is incensed at Obama’s proposed prolonged detention policy.  Says it’s even worse than Bush’s, that it is unprecedented.  I fear in the rush to undo Bush’s disaster, liberals are going too far.

First off, let’s remind ourselves that we are talking about prisoners of war, not U.S. citizens, and they have absolutely no rights under our bill of rights or our constitution.

Now, setting aside the immediate realities of Guantanamo (that some detainees now are un-prosecutable, and that should we set them free they will most surely attack us), the fact is that something unprecedented IS needed, because the world has changed and we face very different threats:

We used to have conventional wars, against states that could be invaded and/or contained.  Prisoners, captured in the battle field, would be held until a truce or surrender signed, and all threats defused.

But in the new world of asymmetric conflicts the enemy can be a handful of individuals, operating across any number of friendly and unfriendly states, potentially able to inflict widespread damage.

So how do we treat enemy prisoners during a long, creeping struggle, when evidence may be no more than having received bomb training?   And at the same time how do we make sure we don’t end up picking up people indiscriminately?  I don’t know, but I’m very very encouraged by Obama’s speech:

In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man.  If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight.

Maddow even goes as far as likening the policy to Minority Report’s Precrime Unit.  Please Rachel, this is war: We don’t wait for an enemy soldier to kill one of ours and then charge them with murder.  The mere fact that they are on the battlefield holding a weapon is enough to take them (and keep them) prisoner.

Maybe what is happening in Phoenix gives us a clue.

I know from my friend Tom that it’s happening in Ventura, CA: He’s been putting offers on foreclosed properties the last two months but investors, cash in hand, keep snatching them.

I wander just how widespread this is.  Investors are looking for cash flow, sometimes even renting to the foreclosed homeowners.  So we probably won’t see this in communities with the highest unemployment numbers.

Terrorists wanted

May 20, 2009

What an enterprising little town:

Earlier this month, Hardin’s town council voted unanimously to offer the US government a deal: Send Hardin the detainees that most foreign countries and other cities the US are afraid to take.

So they don’t want them in Lousisana.  Fine.  Someone else will, for the right price.  It’s the free-market thing to do.

But then you have Harry Reid running scared

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 16:3

From one of the many covers of Rumsfeld’s intelligence updates slide (4/03).  I guess if that’s how one goes about making decisions it’s easy to see how we ended up here.

I am at once sickened by how long we were under control of religious fanatic loons, and so proud to live in a country where strong institutions did not allow us to drift away from reason and progress for much longer.

Cheap warrants

May 20, 2009

I’ve argued that we all benefited from the bubble (before it popped).  I thought Taibbi’s piece on Wall Street’s power grab was pure conspiracy-monguering.  I’ve even been skeptical of Krugman and HuffPo bloggers’ accusation that Geithner and Obama are in the banks’ pocket.

But now I’m very concerned:  Banks are buying back their warrants???

We lent them money, with great risk, and as a condition we got warrants to buy X amount of shares at some price.  These contracts have long multi-year terms, so the government can choose to exercise them after the institutions are back in shape, and their stock worth a lot more.  At least that WAS the bargain.

Now some banks are starting to buy back their warrants, which the contract specifies is allowed at ‘fair market value’, but apparently they are getting sweetheart deals.

As a taxpayer I support a bailout, but if we are to take on risk, we must participate on the reward as well.

This doesn’t just erode trust on the administration:  Having nothing to show in the way of a return after this mess will make it that much harder to get public opinion behind another costly intervention if needed.

UPDATE 5/20: Barry Ritholtz is now on top of this.  I really hope it gets traction.  Today I will call my congresswoman.

UPDATE 5/22: Bloomberg picked up the story! They’re using prof. Wilson’s model to calculate we would be fleeced out of 10 billion by the top 20 TARP recipients alone.