Friday, July 29, 2011

Aphorisms


  1. A banker is someone who demands to be paid, for other people taking their chances.
  2. American business has learned that profit comes not from making first class better, but by making coach worse.
  3. These are not the richest rich that have every walked the earth, their feet never touch actual soil.
  4. Depressions are made, not born.
  5. Stand with the President: cut entitlements to fund tax cuts.
  6. Does Dredd Scott go far enough in protecting property rights?
  7. The problem of the post-modern is how to have limited knowledge in a time of unlimited creation. It's answer, sadly, is to have limited imagination.
  8. Sheep swell ranks of vegan canines movement.
  9. The Peterson Principle: the economic gods hate it when not enough poor are sleeping on the streets.
  10. The only business which naturally throws off cash like oil, involves some other addiction.
  11. Avoiding evil is the best excuse for doing evil.
  12. Everyone can be affluent, but not everyone can be rich.
  13. You can have laws, or lawns, America, but not both at once.
  14. This is a paper crisis: the developed world has doubled down on their portfolio of billionaires.
  15. American's make suburban schools seem better, by making urban schools seem worse.
  16. Once the rich were rich, now they are merely tax exempt and infinitely overdrawn.
  17. Debt crisis? You mean Ben will bail out bankers, bond holders and oil barons, but not Americans?
  18. Which was better, to be in Dresden or Hiroshima? Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
  19. In New York, it isn't what you do, it is who you do. It's the same in LA, only with F/X.
  20. This is the golden age of the public pseudo-intellectual.
  21. In finance, everyone knows what will happen, what matters is when.
  22. Americans knew more about the lock out, than the bail out.
  23. The Forbes 400 is the meaning of most employment.
  24. When an elite says he's making hard choices, it means he's hard and he's choosing who bends over.
  25. There is more social mobility in Europe now, than in America.
  26. We should speak as much of Euro-capitalism, as Euro-socialism.
  27. Right wing socialism: socialism for der volk, and der rich.
  28. I only care what you think, if you do.
  29. We have two parties in America: the reactionary party, and the conservative party.
  30. FDR today would be too far to the left for the Greek socialist party.
  31. Americans see less of the war on the news now, than in 1969.
  32. Taking all deaths together, the coalition's rate of loss in the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts, is almost exactly the same as the Soviet in Afghanistan.
  33. Nixon's health care plan was objectively to the left of Obama's.
  34. Bush is the worst two term President in American history, but he's hearing Obama's footsteps.
  35. There will come a day when Republicans look back fondly on Obama, as liberals might well now take someone as liberal as Nixon.
  36. In politics, the vector is more important than the position.
  37. On Clinton's last day in office, it was the end of an era. In Bush's the end of an error. On Obama's the end of a horror. For President Tea Bag, the end of America.
  38. The job of a Democratic President is to deny the right, not merely delay the right.
  39. Global Capitalism kills more people needlessly per year, than the holocaust running at full blast.
  40. American Apartheid is not over yet, and Israeli Apartheid is only beginning.
  41. The frenemy of my frenemy is my frenemy.
  42. The Republicans have never had a filibuster proof majority since Reconstruction.
  43. Republicans want to outsource the jobs, and do the killing. Democrats want to outsource the killing and do the jobs.
  44. Petreus is going from being in charge of Afghanistan in the army, to being in charge of Afghanistan at the Company.
  45. Cynicism is being right too late.
  46. Hire Paul Krugman to lock the door after the horse has died.
  47. Bush and Obama hired an expert on Depressions to run the Fed. It worked, we have one.
  48. Ideas don't spread like viruses, they spread like prostitutes: for anyone who will use them.
  49. To an elite, "risk" is betting on how much the poor will lose.
  50. The art of the elite is failing upwards.
  51. Half of American consumer spending is now the top 5%. The rest of the market is there to have the cars they pass in their Porsches.
  52. Power is its own policy.
  53. Obama blames Bush, while continuing his policies.
  54. Americans will be serious about the economic crisis, when they end suburbia as consumption.
  55. Among American elites, homophobia is publicly hating gay men more than is absolutely necessary.
  56. American foreign policy is a failure, and for all intents and purposes, starts at the beltway.
  57. Never be part of the other half of the poor.
  58. Success in letters consists of telling people how right they are to be wrong.
  59. A revolution is something everyone wants to have had, but no one wants to have.
  60. Half of economics is finding the answer you are paid to find, much of the rest, the answer you hoped to be paid to find.
  61. The coin in your pocket knows as much about Obama's re-election chances, as any poll.
  62. Boomers: your children will love you, your grandchildren will hate you.
  63. We are the people that the Reagan era sent the bill to.
  64. The global problem is that all elites are busy keeping up with the Saudis.
  65. The top of the economy is running far too hot, the bottom far too cold.
  66. Note how now that the Egyptians are rebelling against their master class, rather than just their masters, Americans forget about them.
  67. If it needs to be done, elites assume that someone will do it for free.
  68. The average song writer would be better off flipping burgers at McDonald's.
  69. A great deal of politics is finding new voters to support policies that are odious to the old ones.
  70. What we do to the planet will be much less than what the planet does to us.
  71. War and sports both grade on the curve. History does not.
  72. That which can't go on. Won't
  73. Just because Life will go on, does not mean your life will go on.
  74. Obama was showered with more praise for less accomplishment than any President, except GW Bush.
  75. The Boomers want their conscience to be their guide. After they have blinded it and gotten it really stoned.
  76. Nations fall when both the party in power, and the party out of power, are completely without merit.
  77. Americans vote as if poor were a synonym for pre-rich.
  78. The stupid left saw Obama as a black Harvard trained organizer from Chicago, when in reality he is a white evangelical from Kansas trained at the University of Chicago.
  79. History is what doesn't go away when Fukayama writes a book about it.
  80. It is exactly as likely that we will see Dow 3600 as Dow 36,000.
  81. The American economy was the goose that laid the golden egg.
  82. America is trying to avoid the lesson that there is no such thing as property on two legs.
  83. Gates joins Rumsfeld as a Secretary of Defense that presided over three losing wars, and he did it in only 3 years.
  84. All investments boil down to over/under.
  85. Under FDR's definition, Obama is, in fact, a fascist: he believes in government owned by private powers.
  86. Do not expect others to riot for your privileges.
  87. Egalitarianism is brought on by taxes: the crash tax, and the war tax.
  88. A policy can't be any more stupid than the people who run it.
  89. Wall Street is ignoring the debt ceiling, because they own the floors.
  90. Compliance is better than deterrence which is better than compellence which is better than violence.
  91. The educated educate, the schooled get schooled.
  92. MMT is the theory that you can print as much money as you can kill.
  93. Americans will feed the poor, as soon as they can figure out to whom.
  94. Fast food is health pollution.
  95. Obama bailed Wall Street out of the crisis, our children will bail it out of the ocean.
  96. It is impossible to be absolutely non-violent, because there is no square inch of earth not taken from someone at some time.
  97. A Libertarian is one who believes that if we got rid of government, Americans would be rich filling the private demand for nuclear powered aircraft carriers.
  98. I was a liberal once, but it was long ago, and in another country.
  99. LBJ had the Democratic Party leave the Dixiecrats. Obama is having it leave the Democrats.
  100. A great deal of would be enviro-energy is trading water for oil.
  101. The downturn is giving more Americans quality time with their lawns.
  102. Shared sacrifice, the bankers get shares, in your sacrifice.
  103. Discourse has been replaced by living spam.
  104. 10 times more money is sitting on corporate balance sheets, than funded the dot com boom.
  105. Neo-liberalism has created millions of jobs in America: prison guards, mortgage originators, and defense contractors.
  106. Democracy is the art of saving capitalism and socialism from themselves.
  107. People seek rent over profit, because it is easier to be first than to be smart.
  108. Every destruction scatters its own seeds.
  109. Americans don't want change, they want to be fans of change.
  110. The tipping point is when you can get 90% of the public not to matter.
  111. Do not vote, for people who hate you.
  112. Bush and Obama both believe it is enough to fool enough of the people, enough of the time.
  113. Power is, who glamor blows.
  114. Mob bosses to testify before Congress on how removing noxious homocide regulations will spur economic growth.
  115. A recession is the economy's way of saying you have something better to do with your time, a depression that politicians don't know what to do with theirs.
  116. Twitter is high school in 140 character bites.
  117. It took 83 years to finish the French Revolution.
  118. Global warming and oil depletion: solving one breaks the other.
  119. Solar minima leads to volcanic maxima.
  120. To have a conversation, both parties must be willing to be converted.
  121. A pundit has a take on everything. Operative word is "take."
  122. Elites obsess, over virtues that they lack.
  123. The corollary to Godwin's Law is that Nazis win all arguments on the internet.
  124. Malcolm Gladwell is known for three ideas: mobocracy is knowledge, prejudice is wisdom, and generation is history. He is the apologist of the consumer age.
  125. Tell me why Spouting Thomas, who can't find a predicate in a sentence, is the expert on globalism.
  126. Sorry is an excuse, all excuses are sorry.
  127. The Millennials are the generation that has be trained to walk into the economic machine guns.
  128. My generation is the most historically situated in recent history, that is, we are cynical sellouts because we are surrounded and outnumbered.
  129. To return course to discourse, you must return dis to discourse.
  130. The Tea Party's first act will be to enshrine the Ten Commandments, by repealing the First Amendment four times.
  131. Academia's job is strangling new ideas in the cradle.
  132. A meme is the inverse of an idea. An idea makes you think, a meme makes you stop thinking.
  133. News is written by winners, history by survivors.
  134. Read your work, look at your art, listen to your music, as if your worst enemy did it.
  135. To be a great artist, have either drive or taste, and learn the other.
  136. I have written 11 string quartets, 6 symphonies, 5 piano trios, 4 concerti and one advertising jingle. Guess which has made more money than all the others combined.
  137. America is a CDO, and Americans sold the senior tranches.
  138. The modern right, is a post-modern, post-structuralist movement.
  139. We live in the age of neo- neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, neo-classicism, neo-romanticism, neo-imperialism.
  140. Louis XVi did everything Obama and Bush did, backwards and in heels.
  141. The problem with politics is that Republicans and Democrats tell the truth about the other, and lie about what they will do about it.
  142. Globalism works, but not for you.
  143. Listen to Fox News if you know what's good for them.
  144. If the poor sleep under bridges, they are given the boot. If the elite sleep under bridges, they are given the bridge.
  145. More people have been destroyed for downloading files, that down sizing America.
  146. Much of the music under copyright was written by Bach, Vivaldi, Brahms, Mozart, or some random black dude who died of alcohol and poverty. They just aren't quite able to collect the checks.
  147. The most famous bankers and prophets are both without honor.
  148. Schoenberg loved copyright, but even he never woke up and said "I've assured jobs for talentless laywers for a hundred years!"
  149. We might demand a third party, but really we would settle for a second one.
  150. The problem with the Republican base, is that it wants accountability without the ability to count.
  151. The history of science, is of one person being right, and everyone else being wrong. So, sadly, is modern American politics.
  152. We have passed from corporate feudalism, to corporate aristocracy.
  153. Captain Carnage tells us that if he isn't the worst central banker in the history of the world, then he is therefore the best.
  154. A writer is hired not for his ability, but his maleability.
  155. Conservative inflationism is historically normal. Conservative capitalism, a relatively recent innovation.
  156. Carbon is a rock, most of it should stay in the ground.
  157. The market for confirmation is larger than the market for information.
  158. People will work for free, but not for nothing.
  159. If you want to break the law, there are legal ways to do it.
  160. If you want to know which side a politician is on, look at who they kill.
  161. Americans want to run government like a business, and banks like a corrupt government.
  162. American capitalism has been reduced to the art of saying "Nice Customer!" until they can find a rock.
  163. Our political economy is the fumbling search to reinvent serfdom.
  164. What elites have always wanted was Television 2.0. They are close to perfecting it.
  165. Conservative culture is gay. A straight man didn't come up with either rhinestone cowboys, or Republican hair styles.
  166. When history is written, 1998 will be the year of folly, and 2001, the harvest of failure.
  167. Scandals don't happen, they are allowed to happen.
  168. Every President from 1988 on has run as a bleeding heart Reaganite, every election since 1960, a referendum on the 1960's.
  169. The post-modern economy, is mostly about itself.
  170. The right wants the constitution to be like a clickwrap agreement: designed to take away rights, not give them.
  171. A little person is a failure if one person out of 100 hates them, a big person a success if one person out of 100 doesn't.
  172. Artists must count success on the extremity of response.
  173. The tool makers are paid, the tool users are remembered.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Entrant for Worst. President. Ever.

Barak Obama has thrown his hat in the ring as a contestant for Worst. President. Ever. He follows on the heels of the unequivocal worst two term President ever, GW Bush. He is not there yet, he has some powerful competition, but like a pitcher winning games after 300, he is rapidly going to pass many of them. Of course, no one can be as bad as Buchanan, who brought America to the brink of civil war, but the number two slot is up for grabs. And Obama's debt game, is him seizing a chance to be the most nakedly criminal President since Nixon.

Breaking Bad

Most people don't read the obscure bits of history, for example the story of the only independent President of the United States: Tyler. Tyler was elected as the Vice-President of the Whig Party, and as such he is listed, but that was before he was voted out of his own Party, and for good measure, they brought articles of impeachment to the floor of the House. All of the items went down, so there was no trial in the Senate, but he remains one of the Big Four of impeachment: a President who had a serious impeachment attempt made.

Tyler was of a piece with President Andrew Johnson, a man who though that he, and only he, knew the center point of equilibrium. Men of this kind are not without legacies: in the case of Tyler, he expanded the use of the Veto, and pushed through the "Independent Treasury," which, while intended to prevent corrupt taking of notes, since the government was not in the business of controlling the money supply after the "Bank of the United States" was allowed to expire, it ended up being a lead weight around the economy's neck, because it required the Treasury to do business only in silver, gold, or notes that amounted to same. Or in short, when the economy got bad, the government sucked up even more of the circulating medium, and could not do anything about it. Eventually it was repealed. He also directed the annexation of Texas. Later, he would be an official in the Confederate government. History often picks strange men to establish precedent, because, of course, Tyler is most known to history as the first Vice President to enter the Presidency on the death of the elected President.

When looking at such Presidents, those of iron will who hear political music that wafts down from a completely unreachable place, one realizes that, in general, they are terrible Presidents. Buchanan, Pierce, Tyler, Johnson are often labelled "weak" Presidents, but in fact, they were all iron willed to the point of reaching a political explosion. Having neither popular nor congressional support, the each served one term and were gone. The star of the class, is George W. Bush, who, I think it unequivocal, is the worst two full term President in American history. Two term Presidents are an elite club, men who are bad Presidents, in general, do not get two full terms. Let's look at the list:

Washington
Jefferson
Madison
Monroe
Jackson
Grant
Cleveland
Wilson
FDR
Truman - short only 100 days.
Eisenhower
Reagan
Clinton
George W. Bush

Note that Nixon resigned well before his second term was over, TR had 1 1/2 terms, Coolidge one term plus a bit over a year, Lincoln a few months of a second term. Less than two full term Presidents are, therefore, a wildly varying lot, with greats – and Lincoln is generally regarded as number 1 or number 2 of all Presidents - mixed in with dregs: Coolidge, the architect of the Great Depression, Buchanan, the architect of the Civil War, and Carter, the man who lost liberalism. Two Term Presidents are seldom truly horrible, which is why GW Bush stands out in the crowd. Even if their policies were not the best, generally they had either powerful political forces behind them, or capable administration of their policy regime. Reagan and Grant both have their very rabid detractors, with plenty of ammunition, but they were able to put their stamp on American government, for better and for worse, because they were able to marshal the political forces around them.

Which brings us to the question of Worst. President. Ever. and Obama's place on that list. The President who Obama most resembles is Herbert Hoover, another one of those chief magistrates of government who became inflexible and iron willed. His idea of compromise is that he cuts out what he thinks is a compromise, and then relentlessly grind on it. He's dealing with people whose idea of compromise is a woman having an orgasm while she is raped. Neither of these two sides have actually compromised very much, other than compromising on extending the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy.

Hoover was a malfortunate president. Unfortunate is not a sufficient adjective to describe it. He inherited an economy that was about to explode. He takes office in March of 1929, the move to January would, to no small extent be because the long gap between election and inauguration paralyzed the country when later he would lose the Presidency, and in October of 1929, the stock market plunges in what is know as "The Crash." In reality such a crash was essentially inevitable after the Olmstead Break in August. In effect he had 5 months of Presidency. The rest was a long grind and heavy flail. His response was not without compassion and, within his understanding, he worked hard to do what was right. He simply was a mammoth in a lake that had been swamped by a breaking glacier dam, to be found, frozen, as an oddity. His failure was that as his policies failed, he doubled and tripled down on them. In essence, he turned a single large downturn, into three back to back downturns, and left the very faith in capitalism and democracy bruised behind him.

FDR and Hoover had once been political friends, but his rants and threats, the most famous being his offer to let FDR be President early, if FDR would scrap the "so-called New Deal." FDR replied tartly that he was still a private citizen until inauguration, his term as Governor of New York having ended.


The Faking of the President

Obama, at least, had the advantage of knowing what he was walking into. The great downturn had started, but it was not yet a Depression, or "L shaped recovery," in the jargon of those who make their living by avoiding the truth. He inherited the worst economic problems since the Great Depression, with even JFK and Reagan, the two previous malfortunates of the post war era, being the only real contenders for working out of a similiar mess. Compared to the downturn that started in 2007, the Recessions of 1969, 1991, and 2001 are puny blips.

Thus it is not by pure results that one should measure a President, but instead how History takes the measure of the man. Coolidge inherited an economy that was, if not solid, powered by a few key industrial sectors. While there were downturns during the 1920's, they were short, shallow, and easy, compared to previous "panics." Coolidge was a terrible President, because he used the space to sweep under the carpet the problems. Hoover was terrible, because he faced terrible times, and was not their match. Fewer men, could have prevailed over the events that Hoover faced.

Obama's economic track record, however, can be measured now, and it is poor. While he inherited a slide, his policies have done little to do more than blunt that slide. By now, all of the Post War Recessions, a period that covers from 1948 to 1983, had recovered in all sectors. The Bush-Obama Depression, however, hangs on for year after blood year, with no hope of full employment until a decade has passed from the original downturn. This after a not very good expansion after the shallow 2001 downturn. The Bush-Obama Depression is of a piece with three Post-Cold War downturns: 1991, and 2001, which had a slow protracted period without real recovery. In fact, their cardinal feature is the lack of a "rebound," a period where people are rapidly returned to work. While depression like features are present in almost every Recession, including deflation in 1948, a slow hiring back in after 1958-59, the permanent disemployment after 1975, none had all of the features of a depression.

This is because Depressions are made, not born. They are the result of a failure to recover and restructure. Recovery is the government spending to hold up demand. Make it so that work is being done, people are getting checks, and thus buying the products of the industrial system. There is a powerful argument for the government acting this way, namely, it is never cheaper or better to do the work, than when prices have halted their normal march upwards in a modern economy, when fewer people are otherwise at hazard from the work, and when there are more people out of work to do the work. When is a better time to repair a road, than when fewer people need to be to work in the morning?

The other part is restructuring. Why did the economy fall into the pit? Because either it could not pay for its raw materials, or it had done all that it could at the previous level of profit taking. To continue forward it is essential not merely to prop up demand, but to address the reasons for the fall. If the fall is short, relatively based in temporary mismatch of capital and labor, then it takes much less than if the fall is steep. Until there is a new avenue of demand which is met by new production, the economy will stall.

And Obama's policies are directly at the center of the creation of a depression for the majority of the economy. Let us number some of the most important:

1. TARP. While technically signed into law by Bush, it was passed because Obama whipped for it. It is legalistic fantasy to call this a "Bush" policy, when it would have failed had Bush been the only one behind it.
2. Reappointment of Bernanke. Of a piece with TARP, it is fantasy to say that TARP is a Bush policy alone, when Obama re-appointed one of its two architects.
3. The Middle Class Tax Cut Bill. Obama stated early what he wanted the stimulus to be, in both size and percentage of tax cuts to spending. The evidence at the time was that tax cuts would do less for the economy than spending, and that the entire package was too small. Obama's advisors, including Romer, lied to sell the package. That's lied. With an "L." It blunted the fall, but did not reverse it.
4. Failure to restructure: other than raising cafe standards, and a few very small and marginal tax breaks, there was no progress in addressing the problem that structurally, Americans are rewarded for extracting rents: health care, defense, telecom, finance, or generating suburban sprawl, which creates a demand for imported oil, which is another rent. Instead...
5. Failure to break the banks. This was the key, the American financial system, more than any other single group, created the crash, and rewarded itself. As long as the banks are in place, they will have the money to buy influence, even among those who do not want it to be so. At the end of the day, all rents must be laundered through the banking system so that those collecting them can cash out and consume.
6. So called Health Care Reform, which is simply a law requiring everyone to pay health insurance companies high rates in return for a few consumer protections. It would be like a law requiring everyone to buy a first class air line ticket, with the assurance that you won't have to sit with your foot in your ear.
7. Failure to end the wars, and shift the expenditure of the bloated defense and security budget to productive ends.
8. Failure to engage in the simple act of removing the dictator of Libya once that course was decided upon, and allowing the rest of the Arab Spring to become like the Revolution of 1830 in France: replace one dictator with another. In case you don't know they are still beating protestors in Egypt.
9. Failure to engage the Eurozone to make a full resolution to their debt problems.
10. Failure to address the ongoing protectionism in China.
11. Failure, abject failure, to address global warming, which is of a piece with 4. So far the plan is let the sun dim and volcanos erupt.
12. Failure to provide effective regulation in a host of areas. Dodd-Frank is, effectively, an act that provides a few gifts for upper middle class checking accounts, while leaving millions to be sucked dry by "pay day loans."

I could extend this list. However it is in one of the better policies that the real mean pettiness of the man is visible, namely in DADT and in his change of heart on DOMA. The first brief defending DOMA was straight out of Bush, the result was an explosion by political activists for equal marriage and equal access on the basis of sexual orientation. They were brutal in their language, withheld donations, and stopped working for the administration. Obama caved, not to his conscience, but to the dearth of cash. Those that put this pressure on him are deserving of praise: they did the right thing for their people, regardless of tremendous social pressure to back Obama at all times in all ways on the left. Obama, however, comes off looking the worse, precisely because he did not listen to a language of coming together, but to a language of pain.

This leaves aside the list that would have made him a great President, it is, instead, a list of failures of almost obviously vital actions. This is what he has bungled.

The Crime of the Century

The debt crisis, so called, because it is entirely manufactured, is however, the stunning work of complete corrupt venality. It is a naked display that Barack Obama cares only for his future as a well paid acolyte of the banks. It is, in a phrase, an abuse of power, as well as being stupid politics.

Let us review:

For decades, there was in place, with skips, a rule in the House of Representatives called the "Gephardt Rule." This rule stated that if the House passes a budget resolution, than a matching increase in the debt ceiling has been "deemed" to be passed. That is, if they spend, then they are going to get the funds from those who can lend. It was not always needed, and there were other reasons to increase the debt ceiling, but it was the fall back, at least the Senate would get a clean piece of legislation to do what they were about to do. As reported early in the new Congress, the Republicans expressly removed the rule. This was in the national press. They went farther, there are several back doors to get legislation to the floor. One is to have a trojan horse amendment, where someone friendly to the chair ambushes them by proposing an amendment that the chair likes, but then turns around and allows an amendment the chair would be hostile to be an amendment to the amendment. The proposer of the original amendment deems it "friendly," and it is on the floor. This has been stopped because any budget bill can now be subject to a "Point of Order" if it, in the sole discretion of the Chair of the Budget Committee, raises the deficit.

Play that out, suppose someone gets 217 signatures for a discharge petition, that would force a vote. The Budget Chair says it raises the deficit, raises a point of order. The Speaker rules that the petition is out of order, and does not get a vote. To over-rule the Chair takes a 2/3 vote. So, to get a vote on something the Chair does not like, even on a back door, requires not a majority, but 2/3, at least as long as the Chair of the committee is on the Speaker's side. And frankly, Boehner's pecker probably goes against his wishes more often.

In otherwords, the debt ceiling show down was one of the Republican's time and choosing. It was a fight that they picked to pick, and set the rules for.

In addition, Obama has chosen to play a game of chicken in order to do something which is overtly corrupt, namely he is acting at the direct behest of Standard and Poors, which threatened a downgrade of US debt, unless there was a 4 trillion dollar over 10 years deficit reduction. Now that means 400 billion dollars a year of anti-stimulus, about the size of the stimulus bill, in fact, and all of it on spending, so likely to produce a full effect. This demand is a demand for an Ireland style collapse in the country, policy so bad as to put it with the unequivocally worst acts of government ever: The Fugitive Slave Act, the 1930 FY Budget, Jim Crow, and the Alien and Sedition Act.

By setting this as a baseline, alone, Obama vaults into contention for worst ever. First because it is policy wrong, and second because it is so obviously tied to securing funds for re-election which he is pursuing and almost 40K a plate, that's the median individual income in the US. According to his opponents, who are only a bit off the mark, one third of his money is from Wall Street.

But then, having done the corrupt thing, and taken on the fight in a way that the Republicans wanted, in the way that they wanted, he has renounced weapons in the fight itself.

To explain. The law requires that the President spend the money that Congress allocates. In 1996 Congress passed a law, which Clinton signed, that included "recision" for individual line items in the budget. In 1998 a case reached the Supreme Court, Clinton v. Cit of New York. Stevens delivered the majority opinion, which unequivocally stated that this violated separation of powers. Thus, the President is required to spend what the Congress allocates. Contrast this with the "government shut down" where the Congress refused to pass a budget, giving the President no legal authority to spend. However, the debt limit just as unequivocally requires Congressional approval for borrowing. The President then must engage in an illegal act, by unilaterally and unconstitutionally engaging in recision, or he must illegally borrow.

Or must he?

The law specifically contemplates conflicting laws. Legislatures are not models of consistency, and it is easy, even if they were of good intent, that one law might miss another in the process of reconciliation. Obama could, easily decide to simply keep paying the bills. Several legal excuses for this, including the XIVth Amendment have been provided, but at the end of the day, look at City of New York. Bill passed in 1996, used in 1997, decided in 1998. That is forever. The only requirement for the legal excuse from Obama, is that it not get the Supreme Court to issue an emergency injunction. That standard is, more or less, that Obama would have to produce legal bullshit. However, since the Debt Ceiling and Budget are in conflict, he has a case. Even if ruled against, that is two years down range from now. Don't believe me, believe Former President Bill Clinton.

There are various other accounting tricks proposed, including the Federal Reserve illegally allowing the Treasury to overdraft the Treasury's account with the Fed. For an institution that illegally swelled its balance sheet with risky securities to bail out the banks, saying that it is an illegal move is in the "I'm shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on here." The Fed already has broken the law, and then for almost a year and half completely stonewalled Congressional subpoena. Go. Pound. Sand. To the tune of 1.6 Trillion dollars of loans to the big banks.

So if Obama thinks it essential to break the law, he has done it, and for numbers bigger than next years budget. Once you are willing to just write checks to banks for hundreds of billions, a sudden attack of legal propriety is unmasked as completely dishonest.

To be blunt: the Republicans set this fight up. Obama has legal and quasi-legal means to avoid this fight. He is proposing legislation at the behest of his major donor group which is against the interest of the country, and is nakedly a concession to Standard and Poors, which is the same company that told us that Mortgage Back Securities were better in 2007 than US Treasuries are now. Since worse Treasury rating means higher interest rates, this is really a raid on the American public: S&P and the bond holders are telling Obama they want more return on their bonds, or more poor people on the streets.

What is worse is that the actions of the President are irrational even in his own political lexicon. He is either insane, which I do not for a moment believe, or he is lying, which he pretty clearly is. Let's review his own words:


For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.


This is red meat for liberal base, but it is clear that Obama does not believe this. If Obama believed that Bush's policies created the problem, then why has he continued virtually all of them: Bush tax cuts, both occupations, subsidies for the health insurance and pharma industries, and almost all of the spending. In otherwords, he's saying one thing for liberal base people, but his budget proposal does not:

1. End the tax breaks.
2. End the occupations and wars.
3. End most subsidies for the health care industry.
4. End expansion of the military.

Instead, it cuts entitlements, and domestic discretionary spending. In fact, he comes as close to closing the domestic government, absent spying on Americans, groping their genitals, and locking them up, as is possible.

If he believed that Bush's unsustainable spending is unsustainable, then why is he sustaining it. It also isn't that he believes that the housing bubble and crash is the cause, because there is nothing in this bill that would redirect effort from building houses we don't need, to something else.

If he believed that Bush lead to Bubble, that is, something many of the graphs circulating argue by layering the deficit, then he's addressing neither part.

In reality, the action and the excuse are unrelated to each other. He might as well say "We were attacked on 9/11, and therefore we have to invade Iraq." This is a corrupt fiasco of the same size as the Iraq war, and one that will, though less directly, cost as many lives. Dead from car accidents on roads unrepaired, dead from medical malpractice, dead from uninspected food, dead from dangerous streets. Instead, the only explanation that makes sense, is if you believe in the Peterson Principle that the economy gods want more poor people sleeping under bridges, more old people dying from lack of medicine, and more billionaires to count the loot.

Yes, this imaginary crisis that the Republicans and Obama have provoked to force ordinary people to pay for their wars and tax cuts, and bank bail outs and health insurance give aways, is proof that Obama is now an official entrant for Worst. President. Ever. He is, in every meaningful sense, Bush's third term, with a few exceptions that while heartening for those that get them, are not enough to even begin to salvage his term. Remember that George Herbert Walker Bush passed a major piece of civil rights legislation too: the Americans With Disabilities Act, which is, indeed, a humane and important step forward. But it isn't going to wash the stains of his failures.

Make of it what you will.