The Stimulus Is The New Public Option

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which staved off utter disaster for the US economy and which started and has kept it along the road (albeit at a sluggish speed) to recovery, is in need of recovery itself. Because at the moment, it is being falsely represented as a failure. It’s not surprising to hear that come from conservatives, who are against any spending that actually benefits people, but the real damage is being done by idiots on the left who scream that because it was  ‘not big enough’, it was a total failure. No ifs, no buts, just 100% fail (naturally, these same people also whine about President Obama giving into right-wing framing, while achieving the exact same result by battering the stimulus from the left. Such is the hypocrisy of this crowd).

Today in the Guardian, in an article entitled ‘Obama’s Stimulus Failure’,  Dean Baker, a liberal American economist, basically lays the blame for the size of the stimulus entirely at President Obama’s feet while lying about the effect the stimulus had:

If President Obama had been doing his job, he would have immediately begun pushing for more stimulus the day after the first one passed. He should have been straightforward with the American people and said that the stimulus approved by Congress was an important first step, but that the severity of the downturn was so great we would likely need more.

………..

It’s not surprising that they don’t have the political support for more effective stimulus when they abandoned the effort to make the case almost two years ago.

As you can see, Baker simply cannot comprehend why President Obama could not simply create enough stimulus to feed the battered economy, like Jesus created enough food from 2 fishes and 5 loaves to feed 5000 people. And he has a point…if you ignore the obstructionist GOP which necessitated 60 votes for the bill, the fact moderate Republican votes were needed due to the ongoing battle in Minnesota over Al Franken’s seat, that the Democratic Party caucus in the Senate includes conservatives who wrongly view spending with scepticism, and pretend for one moment that President Obama is not Dumbledore. And then he talks about how this is why he has no political support for ‘more effective stimulus’ now, when he didn’t actually have it 2 years ago either. Although he doesn’t use the by now hackneyed term, what you see here is the Bully Pulpit Fallacy – the deluded idea that if only President Obama took the case to the American people, votes would suddenly appear for his policies in Congress. Let’s just say Baker has as good a grasp of the realities of politics as his better-known fellow economist, Paul Krugman.

Baker’s views on the bank bailouts are equally revealing. But before we get into discussion of the bailouts, let’s observe the opening paragraph:

Most authors of books on politics or economics are happy when they get one or two prominent members of Congress to endorse their work. It looks like I’m about to get majorities of both chambers to endorse my book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (free download available). There is no other way to describe Henry Paulson’s $700bn bail-out deal.

This could be the first paragraph of any article written by any professional media liberal at any point during Obama’s presidency. In fact, you could summarise everything ever written by the professional left in three words: “Buy my book!”

The rest of Baker’s anti-bailouts column is an argument that the bailouts were wrong, that the banks should have been left to fail because the Federal Reserve would have taken over and all would have been well:

The best argument that the bail-out proponents had was that the failure to do the bail-out could lead to a collapse of the financial system, leaving us unable to use credit cards or ATMs, or otherwise conduct normal financial transactions. This would indeed be scary, since it would imply a complete economic collapse. (I had actually accepted this line.)

Actually this was entirely an idle threat. In the event the banking system really did freeze up, then the Federal Reserve would step in and take over the major banks. (It had contingency plans for such a takeover in the 1980s, when the money centre banks were saddled with billions of dollars of bad developing country debt.)

I don’t pretend to know much about economics, but to argue that nothing serious would have happened if the banks hadn’t been bailed out is completely insane. Putting ideology above everything else at either end of the political spectrum is dangerous, and while they may be more common on the right, left-leaning ideologues must be equally marginalised.

I chose to blog about this piece not because it’s particularly outrageous, but because it’s symptomatic of a wider problem among media liberals – a tendency to ignore fact, reality in favour of misty watercoloured memories of a non-existent past where Utopia could have been a reality, if only Barack Obama had done X, or Y, or Z. It’s been going on for literally his entire presidency, and I’m fucking tired of it.

 

The First Rule Of Sirota’s Holier Than Thou Club (UPDATED)

UPDATE: As the subject of this post has dropped by for a visit, I am going to clarify: I am not defending, and did not defend, the deliberate targeting of minority-dominated neighbourhoods for frisking, drug swoops etc. Nowhere did I even mention those in this post. I was responding to Sirota’s criticisms of the increase in the number of arrests and the money and time Bloomberg is choosing to spend on it. I think that’s pretty obvious when you read the actual paragraph in question. But then, I’m not chronically intellectually dishonest.

….is the rules must be constantly changed to deny all but David Sirota membership.

A theme you will often see with Salon’s twin beacons of supreme self-righteousness, David Sirota and Glenn Greenwald, is that they are ‘courageous’ for holding the opinions they do, for Evil Obama Cultists or Imaginary Evil Authority Figures are, as we speak, threatening to throw them in the gulag for daring to speak out against what most people see as sanity and common sense, but they see as the creeping onslaught of fascism.

Now Sirota goes even further in this narcissistic hogwash in his latest screed about a NYT’s reporter’s tweet on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legacy. This tweet, in fact (which I will agree is too deferential in tone for my liking too, but otherwise has valid points):

So what? Bloomberg shouldn’t be given any kudos at all for championing gay rights. He’s mayor of fucking New York City! The only place safer to support gay rights is a gay bar…in San Francisco! So yeah, big deal Bloomie. Or so says David Sirota, for whom being right (ie being of the same mind as Sirota) is now no longer enough to get you that Scooby Snack. No, now you have to be right while locked inside an asylum filled with lunatics, screeching howler monkeys and rabid dogs infested with fleas carrying the Black Death.

As mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg is a national political figure — and his positions supporting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, backing gay marriage and defending the right of an Islamic center to be built in Lower Manhattan are certainly of national interest, laudable and pro-freedom. However, two of those three positions (Ai Weiwei and gay marriage) are hardly politically courageous in a socially progressive city like New York. More important, citing these three isolated examples to declare Bloomberg “The Freedom Mayor” who represents a “full-throated defense of liberty” is a propagandistic whitewashing of his larger anti-freedom record — and such hagiographic sloganeering is particularly disturbing coming from an allegedly objective meme-shaper like Barbaro.

Being a pragmatist, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Given that New York State’s last attempt to legalise gay marriage failed in the  Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo says the votes still aren’t there, the support of an independent, powerful political figure and former Republican could prove extremely useful. But there I go again, bringing common sense into the argument. And standing up for the 1st Amendment, the cornerstone of freedom in the Constitution,during the ridiculous fuss over the Park51 project,  is what I’d call a ‘full throated defence’ of liberty.

While there are many valid criticisms to be levelled at Bloomberg, the other criticisms Sirota offers are, to put it mildly, laughable. His chief concerns are the NYPD arresting people for possession of pot and ‘Big Brother’ surveillance cameras. Whether you think pot should be criminalised or not, the fact remains it is currently against the law and will be until the law is changed. What exactly are the police supposed to do – not enforce a law because some people don’t agree with it? You know, believing pot leads to people taking harder drugs is a perfectly legitimate position to have, and Bloomberg has every right to get tough on it if that is his position.

As for this ‘ZOMG Big Brother is watching us!!11eleventy!!” reaction to surveillance cameras, what these hysterical morons seem to forget is that the the cameras are recording to tape so they can be closely examined later in the event of a crime occurring, and people in the observation rooms are on the lookout for antisocial and criminal behaviour. They are not interested in watching you, Mr Par. A. Noid, adjust your tin foil hat every 5 seconds.

Arsenal’s Shitty, Awful, No-Good Season Crawling To An Ignominious End

Apparently too much Carling causes hangovers that last for months.

It's ironic that my NFL team's owner is a profligate idiot while my soccer team's manager is an equally stupid tightwad.

Our title bid went out with the wimpiest of whimpers, and instead of ending the season on some kind of high, the team seems to be determined to have us all reaching for the bottle by season’s end. Yeah, we were on the receiving end of some really appalling refereeing decisions, but refereeing decisions don’t use up every 90 minutes of 38 games. Ultimately, the team has no one to blame but themselves.

Between Squillaci proving to be by far the worst buy Arsene Wenger’s ever made, Cesc making it clear he’d rather be pulling Barca’s midfield strings, and Wenger’s fucking idiotic stubbornness in refusing to buy at all, not even the badly needed goalkeeper, or experienced players for the defence, this season has stretched my faith to the limit and broken it. So much so, that I now firmly believe that Wenger has taken this club as far as he can go, and he needs to pass the management on to new blood before we actually start going backwards.

And Arsenal: how about winning some silverware before deciding to jack season ticket prices up by 6%? People are already struggling to pay for these tickets, they don’t want to spend precious money on a team that serves up the kind of spineless, heartless football we’ve seen all too often this season. Or cut the wages overpaid primadonnas who play like they don’t give a shit if you need extra money. Except Robin van Persie, that man deserves a pay raise for the way he’s played this season. One goal every 97 minutes of Premiership football is simply amazing. He deserves better than this.

Everyone who loves Arsenal deserves better than this.