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The incongruities

Helicopter Ben -- and I know this will surprise you -- says Hank Paulson's golfing buddies need even more money, on top of the over two trillion we spent, which went gawd only knows where (except for their own big salaries, that is).

As the economic outlook continues to worsen even after the Treasury’s injection of about $250 billion into the banking sector, Mr. Bernanke said more capital injections and guarantees might become necessary.

Mr. Bernanke reiterated the need for “stronger supervisory and regulatory systems” while being careful not to introduce rules that would “forfeit economic benefits of financial innovation and market discipline.”

(Hilarity ensures at the mention of the "benefits" of "financial innovation." You've got a job, Ben? A house? Fuel? Food? Good. I'm glad things worked out for you. Personally, I think we should find all the financial "innovators" and chop off their mouse hands so they can't build any more computerized models to lie at math with). Hey, just kidding!

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Times person Jackie Calmes burbles:

Assuming Timothy F. Geithner gets confirmed as Treasury secretary – and his Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled – he plans to bring along as a counselor Gene B. Sperling, adding another well-known veteran of the Clinton administration to the incoming Obama administration.

Mr. Sperling, who worked on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and for all eight years in his White House, will have a new position that Mr. Geithner has created. He will advise on fiscal policy, including issues related to the annual budget, taxes and the domestic entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – whose growth is driving projections of long-term deficits.

My point here is not Sperling's views on so-called entitlements* like Social Security, but the remarkable, or not, incongruity between the two quotes. Surely handing two trillion dollars of taxpayer dollars over to Big Money drives the projections of long-term deficits? Of course it does. But not a word from Jackie Calmes. That's because it's an article of faith in the Village that the "entitlements" of the little people must be destroyed. Why are they entitled to anything? Give us more money NOW NOW NOW NOW!

NOTE Obama put Social Security in play during the primaries, and now-openly disgraced Goldman Sachs weasel Bob Rubin opened the question explicitly right before election day, as did Obama, in typically oblique, "thoughtful" fashion, afterwards. Whether Sperling is a stalking horse for privatizing efforts, as Kellifer might be, we don't know. For example, Sperling's fascinating article on Bob Ball ends with this weasel wording:

Yet, if we care about tackling some of our most important and difficult challenges, all concerned must strive to find those opportunities where both sides can feel they are involved in honorable compromise and not abandonment of principle.

And this article, from Sperling in 2001

For however sound are the arguments that the Social Security trust fund has real assets that can keep the system solvent until 2038, if the administration seeks to point to the financial trade-offs encountered in 2016 as a means to spur our nation to increase national savings and act quickly to prevent a more serious financial crisis, I am a potential convert. But for the administration to convince anyone that using the date 2016 is a serious call to action—and not just a scare tactic for privatization—it needs to show that it is serious about increasing national savings now.

Which -- Bush administration? Scare tactics? Who knew? -- gives Bush entirely too much credit (just as "honorable" does above). I don't like to see the cast of mind that accepts a truthy date, 2016, as A-OK, just because a higher good is being served; truthiness rots everything. Is the only difference between Republicans and Democrats that the Democrats use lube? Time will tell...

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chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

the lying thieves begin babbling about the need for oversight and regulation just days before the (supposed) dems take over. not that i'm disagreeing with anything you've said here, lb. it's just funny. did those words ever come out of bernanke's mouth when he was working for rethugs? if they did, i missed it.

Corner Stone's picture
Submitted by Corner Stone on

Is the only difference between Republicans and Democrats that the Democrats use lube?

The only difference that I can see is that Republicans just come at with what they want to do, then never stop using their talking points and loaded language to shift the Overton window until it's done.
Democrats on the other hand come out intially saying they support a position which some on the left can kind of agree with, then start a miraculous slide to the right - using weasel words and backsliding the whole way.
In the end both "sides" get to the same point. One hits you in the mouth and makes you take it, the other turns your cheek and then kicks you in the junk when you're not looking.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I never found Sperling scary. In fact, he had some very forward looking proposals (especially WRT training and child care) that I almost never see discussed. The question is, since he is a deficit hawk, what he's willing to do in the face of some pretty big deficit projections and some pretty perilous times. I guess that's the question for Obama as well. Who has his ear the most?

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

We have seen this play before. This is the Bush offense even if the players are wearing a different uniform. The question is, who is playing whom. While I would like to think that the goals are different this time, it is disquieting to review the past statements of the Obama administration's nominees and to see a commonality between the outgoing Bush team and the incoming Obama team. On Social Security, we have fixed it at least three times that I remember. Each time, the benefits potentially available to me took a hit with favors going to Republicans and Wall Street. Here we go again, this time with a charismatic Democrat leading the charge. This is not going to end well.

I am old enough that I could apply for Social Security benefits now on the theory that it will lock in the current structure. That seems likely to be better than whatever is offered after the system is "fixed" this time.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

It talks a lot about intergenerational warfare. In 2005, the GOP tried to launch a massive generational war to kill Social Security. Expect to see that offensive launched again. One of the aspects that troubled me most about Obama's campaign was that it seemed to needlessly interject generational hostilities. This was troubling because that seems to be a way in which to disrupt the fundamental aspects of the social contract which ties us all together. And the "personal responsibility" frame leads into that as well, ya know, the poor black kid who is given "Popeye's chicken" needs to be responsible for their parents birthing them into poverty.

As a matter of personal opinion, I don't think Obama is evil, I just think he's overly ambitious, inexperienced (in life as well as policy) and has a Bush-like leadership style. But those three traits can be just as dangerous as Bush. On the flip side, I think it means that people can muscle Obama in certain directions, we just have to make sure its liberals, not conservatives who have the most influence. Sadly, I don't think that is currently the case.