Palin meets Couric, again, with maverick back-up

I’m astonished that Senator McCain has to sit by his vice presidential candidate to defend her statements, blaming the press for Governor Palin’s clearly stated position about Pakistan, a contradiction to what McCain said in the debate Friday. McCain calls a question by a voter a “gotcha journalism” tactic.

Palin’s position, that cross-border strikes are necessary, is exactly what McCain condemned as naive and dangerous. Either she’s naive and dangerous or McCain’s characterization of Senator Obama is mere posturing.

We get to decide. Do you want these people running the country?

Imagine we bailed out homeowners

There would be huge uproar if the United States bought out the distressed mortgages in the country and just let the people who had trouble with their loans remain in the house, just wiped the slate clean. Yet that is what the bank bail-out will do, if the U.S. buys up all the bad debt banks hold while leaving the healthy banks “unclogged” (to use President Bush’s plaque-in-the-veins metaphor of this evening) and ready to operate profitably, again.

Make no mistake, helping taxpayers recover the value lost on that “toxic paper” would be the lowest priority on Wall Street.

On the other hand, if the U.S. government bought up all the bad mortgages, foreclosed on them and, then, let the people who defaulted live in those homes on rental terms, eventually providing programs to buy homes back from the government, that would be considered a fair treatment by many voters. The assets seized would offset the cost of the mortgage losses and provide the basis for recovering the losses later by selling the property. We’d be tangibly helpful to distressed families, giving them a roof over their heads while opening the door to their repaying the cost of the home in rent and, ultimately, new mortgages.

Why is the U.S. not taking the same approach as it did to AIG when it failed last week? The U.S. government now owns about 80 percent of the company in exchange for the cash it needed to stay afloat. There are already investors interested in buying that equity at a profit to the government.

Wall Street should be sold off to the government, just as mortgage-holders in default would find their homes repossessed, and the companies receiving money from the public held responsible to the taxpayers as shareholders, because without that public money, they will be out of business. Surely, if the crisis is resolved, the assets will be worth more, but so too would there be viable economic reasons to buy those assets back from the government at a profit.

If the bail-out goes ahead based on the U.S. buying “toxic paper” the banks, for all intents and purposes of analogy between these scenarios, will end up owning their homes and mortgage-free. The U.S. government will be left holding the paper that representeds inflated values of assets held by others — no collateral and, therefore, unlikely to be treated as a pressing debt to be paid by responsible people who want to own their property.

I don’t doubt we need to do something about the credit crisis–I just think we should treat the recipients of the largesse of the U.S. taxpayers like any business would treat someone asking it for value: Ask for security that the debt will be repaid. Then, the bankers can keep their banking houses and learn to run their businesses responsibly before buying out their saviours, the American people.  We could even cap the premium the government demands to make sure that, once the industry is able to profit honestly, it could become a truly private concern.

The runaway candidate

Now he’s out of the race. McCain should continue the debates, regardless of what he wants to spend his days doing. It is essential to our democracy that we hear from the candidates about all the issues.

If Senator McCain wants to suspend his campaign, he should drop out of the race and let someone who wants to answer to the American people run in his place. That would rule out Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate, as well.

Legislators from both sides agree: Rip-off

It may be needed, but the bail-out shouldn’t come in the form of a give-away to the banks, Congress says.

This is when the vaunted “bipartisanship” Republicans demand at every turn actually becomes a real debate and negotiation. In this case, the only people in favor of the bail-out in its current form are the Bushies. This is why we need a strong Congress, not a unitary executive.

Recovery or double-dip?

The bail-out of Wall Street will merely compound the problems that got us here, because the program leaves the banks free of the cost of their junk assets while depriving the buyers of those assets—that’s us, the taxpayers—with any of the benefits of ownership. As planned, the bail-out will simply transfer paper around. That, my friends, is the recipe for a moral hazard. But not the moral hazard of government intruding in markets, rather it is the temptation on bankers’ parts to do it all again, because they are insured against the loss. Or, more to the point, they will not have paid the price for their misdeeds this time around.

Democratic calls for concessions by the banks, such as restrictions on CEO salaries and assistance to homeowners, while these are needed, will not temper the market’s desire for huge returns. They are band-aids on Godzilla, which makes the monster a little less ugly, but doesn’t change its appetite for destruction. The $700 billion+ the already expended $300 billion (on AIG, liquidity lending by the Treasury to the Fed, etc.) we’re spending is merely going into the accounts of the people who, feeling no limit to their tolerance for risk, ran the economy aground last week. The Bush Administration was part of that wretched crew, not its saviors. In fact, they are merely greeting their beleagured friends at the dock with buckets of money to hand out to the “survivors.”

In reality, the survivors of the economic meltdown haven’t been exposed yet. Fired bankers will go home and relax, because they have a lot of money. The rest of the country is simply waiting for the glacial pace of erosion to accelerate into their lives like a continental flood when the ice sheet disintegrated. Since those folks are now going to spend $1 trillion to “save” some banks from bad paper, which carry virtually no upside and a lot of risk that the paper will become valueless, the severity of that eventual economic cataract will only get worse.

On the other hand, if that $1 trillion represented real value, which the government could then sell at some future date, taxpayers would, at minimum, have some influence over the disposition of all the property that banks acquired during this spending spree. We’ve heard so much about “the ownership society” over the past seven years. Why, now that we’re dishing out another trillion dollars, are we not getting some ownership, as the government did when it bailed out AIG last week?

Everyone is expecting a recovery now. The market was disappointed today, to the tune of 300 points, that people are debating the terms of the bail-out before simply handing over all that cash. How can we be so presumptuous? Granted, the bail-out is necessary, but not necessarily in the form it takes under Henry Paulson and George W. Bush, a banker and a, well, “executive president,” who are bailing out their base.

If the bail-out goes ahead as planned, I’d hold on tight for a double-dip, when Wall Street comes begging for more help.

Another trillion+ dollars in Bush economic wounds

When the banking crisis is completely wrapped up, several years from now, we are going to be looking at another trillion dollars in U.S. debt, at least. That’s money coming out of everyone’s pockets to pay for the losses generated by a very small, very rich group of people. I do think it is high time the U.S. government step in, but we would not have gotten to this point if the Bush administration and Republican economic policy over the past 28 years hadn’t drastically reduced the government’s oversight of markets. Earlier, the energy markets proved this, but the Republicans pushed on with deregulation, a la Glass-Steagall, which set the stage for this banking meltdown.

The cost of intelligent regulation is far lower than the social insurance for billionaires we’re paying today. President Bush and his supporters, including Senator McCain, despite his howling and growling about the markets as “casinos” during the past couple days (not to mention his idea that we need yet another U.S. agency to handle this crisis—the essence of short-term thinking), should acknowledge that they got us into this and that they are borrowing on our children’s futures to get their rich friends out of it.

We’re at a point where capitalism is only a seeming capitalism, like the communism of the Soviet Union, where the rich get all the benefits of shared risk, while the rest of us simply go back to work to pay off their debts.

If this were a real marketplace under the rule of law, lots of bankers would be led out in handcuffs and the perpetrators of these financial disasters would be broke and begging on the street, just as they’ve said “economic failures” need to do all these years. Let’s see these fatcats bootstrap their existence for a change.

McCain’s health plan: Adding to the legions of uninsured

Senator John McCain has promised to “fix” healthcare with a system that combines tax credits with increased emphasis on private insurance. One of his advisors, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says the plan would pull 25 to 30 million people into the ranks of the insured. Yes, more private insurers making big profits is exactly what we need…. But a panel of experts has contradicted the McCain claims in an article in Health Affairs, according to The New York Times:

The article, published in the journal Health Affairs, argues that “initially there would be no real change in the number of people covered as a result of the McCain plan.” After a short-term reduction of 1 million in the number of people without coverage, the number of uninsured would increase by 5 million after five years, the authors predict. There are currently 45 million people without insurance, or 15 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau.

If McCain would like to convene a panel of experts to determine what’s wrong with the U.S. financial system (as though we don’t know already–unrestricted greed has sapped the system of tremendous reserviors of value), he ought to listen to this pane about health care now. The McCain health plan is more of the same, which will only magnify the problem.

This makes me sick…

In the comments at ABCNews.com, about the Palin interview, the following

“from all the anti Palin post, I gather that the Liberal Extremist (Democrats) are still full of hate and anti American attitudes. If you don’t love American and all this country provides you(security, freedom etc.) leave, go away. There are countries out there that are full of hate and never protect their freedom and security, that would love to have you.
moralityusa 9:27 PM”

It is sickening. That is ugly, unamerican and misrepresents the majority of Americans and Republicans. But it is increasingly the message being sent by the far right. We’ve moved from talk of liberal extremists to lumping all Democrats into a category that should leave the country. When I refer to members of the far right, I mean people who want to legislate the way we live, not someone who should leave the country. With this kind of rhetoric, they should not be honored with elective office. And we should mark that this is the language of the Palin proponents, who are resorting to rabid attack on any honest effort to ask her a question.

Voters have every right to ask Gov. Palin any question as they judge her ability to make decisions that will impact every American. Anyone who thinks the McCain campaign’s strategy of insulating her from the press is correct is missing the point of democracy: Elections are a test. When you win, you don’t get to take over and run the country, you get to lead the government. If this kind of hateful response from moralityusa is what can be expected in response to our questions about Sarah Palin, the election is a fight for the American future.

Doors to avenues of thought and freedom of opportunity are closing all around us. We have to kick them open by voting against this kind of closed-minded hatred of other Americans and everything that makes this country great.