Patterico's Pontifications


A Trillion-dollar Sandbox

Filed under: Economics,Politics — JRM @ 2:17 pm

[Guest post by JRM]

The $700 billion bailout of the banking industry had naysayers complaining that the government wouldn’t act consistently, that abuses would occur, and that it wouldn’t actually help the economy.

Let’s take that step-by-step.

Initially, money from the bailout was supposed to be used to buy bad mortgages under the theory that the government knew better than all of the other investors. The Treasury Department changed its mind Wednesday, deciding that, yeah, that wasn’t a good idea. This was after it got approval to spend the $700 billion pretty much as it pleased.

Now, the money will help to make the balance sheets better. Tomorrow is a new day, and who knows what fun the government will find to use the money on?

And abuses? Let us speak of a plucky little company called the Hartford Financial Services Group.

The poor folks at Hartford wanted a few billion dollars from the government. Unfortunately, since they had no banking arm, they weren’t eligible for the bailout. They were sad.

So, they went to find a bank to purchase, and the Federal Trust Bank was available for $10 million. (Ten million, with an “m.”) They purchased it, so now they’ll be eligible for the Capital Purchase Program, and will apply for $3.4 billion (with a “b”) in government funds.

I am not making this up.

Other companies have simply bypassed the requirements by being called Bank Holding Companies; the Treasury granted American Express’ request to be so designated because, you know, they need the money.

Meanwhile, the $300 billion expended so far has done roughly nothing. No one knows what the treasury’s next move is, and people are afraid of continued economic downturns. The slowdown in credit stays right where it was.

Other industries are lining up; the auto industry is next, followed by, presumably, the blog industry. I am hopeful that Patterico sells senior debt to the government for $6 billion, so I don’t have to continue to survive on the paltry $800 per post I’m currently paid.

There’s no indication of what a successful plan will do, no indication that the Treasury has fixed plans, and no indication that anyone should expect consistency from the use of the money. We have no targets which are supposed to be met, and Secretary Paulson’s bald statements that the bailout is working seem uncompelling.

People who bought smaller houses and have 10-year-old cars will continue to pay for their neighbors in the nicer area nearby. That’s the effect of the bailout so far.

I’m not saying the government should do nothing. But this continued throw-money-at-it and find out what works reminds me too much of a fifteen-minute discussion between the pilot of an airliner and ground control some years ago.

The plane’s ability to move vertically had been severely impaired by a mechanical breakdown, so they tried various things that didn’t work. The people on the ground were experts in the field, but once the first few things didn’t work, they had the pilot try something else as an experiment.

“OK,” was the last intelligible word said.

I’d rather do small things that are likely to work rather than socialize the financial sector, which has a serious downside. The total 2008 federal budget originally submitted was $2.9 trillion, and the bailout is now expected to exceed a trillion dollars.

We’re talking about huge numbers here, and I have no confidence that the current plan will result in anything but the eventual governmental takeover of massive portions of the financial industry.

It’s time to regroup, and stop once the first $350 billion is spent. Barack Obama said he’d stop programs that weren’t working; here’s one.


Obama’s Hispanic Vote (Updated x2)

Filed under: 2008 Election,Politics — DRJ @ 1:11 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A post-election study by a Democratic think tank argues the Hispanic vote accounted for Obama’s margin of victory in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico:

“In Colorado, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 12.4% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 7%. In Florida, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 2%. In Nevada, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 12.4% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 12%. In New Mexico, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 28.3% of the electorate, while Obama only won by 15%.”

Obama’s win in those states were important to his victory and will likely be important in future races, too. If this study is correct, I’m curious how it affects amnesty and immigration legislation. Historically immigration has been like abortion — polarizing political issues that neither Party wants to face head on. Maybe this will convince the Democrats that amnesty should be on the agenda.

I have a feeling it might but I hope not.

UPDATE 1: Karl Rove thinks Hispanic voters are essential to the GOP’s future success:

“Republicans must regain ground among critical voting groups. Voters ages 18–29 voted Democratic by a 2-to-1 margin. A market-oriented “green” agenda that’s true to our principles would help win them back. Hispanics dropped from 44 percent Republican in 2004 to 31 percent in 2008. The GOP won’t be a majority party if it cedes the young or Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support secure borders, a guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation. An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal. As the party of Lincoln, Republicans have a moral obligation to make our case to Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans who share our values. Whether we see gains in 2010 depends on it.”

That sounds great but how do we do it?

UPDATE 2: Janet Murguía, the President of the National Council of La Raza, also thinks Hispanics were the reason Obama won Nevada, Colorado, Florida and New Mexico. Here’s what she expects from Obama in return:

“At some point in the first term we would definitely expect to see an effort to move responsible immigration reform,” Murguía said. “It would be a big mistake not to act on this important priority.”


Obama’s Evolving National Security Policy

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 12:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

These Obama policy waffles noticed by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air are examples of why I don’t trust Obama and his supporters on national security:

“Earlier today, I noted that Barack Obama’s team has started hinting that they will move back towards John McCain’s position on interrogation techniqiues. Now supporters of Obama who have criticized the Bush administration’s position on indefinite detention have begun rethinking that policy as well[.]”

Presidents must adjust their policies as events unfold but there’s nothing new here except Obama has shifted from candidate to President-elect.

If Obama follows through on his campaign promises, he would prohibit many CIA interrogation techniques and close GTMO, even if that meant releasing detainees into American society. Those seem like particularly bad ideas in light of renewed warnings that the world should brace for a terror attack, warnings that must weigh heavily on President-elect Obama.

So I hope Obama decides to adopt President Bush’s policies as a good balance of civil liberty and national security concerns. Whatever he decides, it seems Obama’s consideration of national security issues is far more nuanced now that his opponent is Al Qaeda instead of Hillary or McCain. Unfortunately this is simply more evidence of just how naive or disingenuous candidate Obama and his supporters really are.


Fire in Palos Verdes? (Update: Yes, Apparently Just a Minor One)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:32 am

[August 27, 2009 UPDATE: This post is about a 2008 fire. If you’re looking for information about the August 27, 2009 fire, my post on that fire is here.]

There’s a cloud of smoke I’ve been watching for the last 20-30 minutes on the southwest side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It’s several miles away. The Santa Ana winds are howling today.

I don’t know if it’s a fire or the aftermath of a fire. The only stories I can find online, like this one, suggest that there was a fire last night and there is still a cloud of smoke from that. Somehow, this looks like more than that, but we’ll see.

UPDATE: Yep, it’s a currently burning fire. Sounds like it’s relatively under control. Courtesy of Tim McGarry comes a link to an L.A. Times blog entry about a fire near Hawthorne Blvd. That’s the one..

I initially said it’s on the west side of the peninsula, but it’s probably more like the southwest part.

UPDATE x2: I have a new post discussing the fires across Southern California here.

L.A. Times: “Nobody” Is Seeking to Implement the Fairness Doctrine

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:28 am

James Rainey’s latest column at the L.A. Times contains the following headline:

Right-wing radio sounds false alarm on ‘Fairness Doctrine’

Impose a mandate on broadcasters to balance their political views? That would be onerous indeed. But memo to Rush: Nobody’s asking for that.

Nobody? Really??

Memo to the headline writer: yes, someone is. Here’s one example:

Ed Morrissey has much more.

P.S. I’m plenty amused by Rainey’s contention that we need not worry about this because Obama says he’s not going to pursue it. Obama said he wasn’t going to run for the Presidency — and then did. Obama said he wasn’t going to reject public financing — and then did.

So you’ll have to pardon me if I’m not particularly reassured by Barack Obama’s claim that he’s not going to try to impose the Fairness Doctrine. Based on his history, that’s a pretty strong indication that he will.

L.A. Times Still Not Reporting Hillary’s Pakistan Gaffes

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Obama — Patterico @ 10:09 am

The L.A. Times reports on the possibility that Hillary Clinton could be Secretary of State. The paper hits some of her weaknesses, but misses one fairly prominent one.

She tried to make foreign affairs a selling point, repeatedly telling crowds that as first lady she had visited more than 80 countries. But she occasionally overreached. Clinton was forced to backtrack after claiming she had to evade sniper fire when landing in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996. Archival footage showed a peaceful arrival, not the harrowing scene she described.

Good. And?

During a conference call with reporters in February, her aides were asked to name a single foreign policy crisis in which she was tested. There was a lengthy pause. A reply offered by one aide seemed beside the point: She had been endorsed by more than two dozen high-ranking military officers.

Very good. And?

Clinton also stated twice that Pervez Musharraf was going to be on the ballot in upcoming Pakistan elections. But Musharraf had been recently re-elected, and the upcoming elections were for parliamentary seats. Additionally, she suggested that Nawaz Sharif was eligible to run for office in Pakistan, although several experts concluded he is not.

Oh, wait. That last paragraph wasn’t in the article. I wrote that.

And as far as I can tell, the L.A. Times has never reported it. I even sent them a letter about it. They never responded.

As you can see, the paper still does a decent job of pointing out some of her shortcomings. But if she actually goes through confirmation hearings and her Pakistan comments never come up . . . well, it would be an outrage.

But hey, we’re used to those.

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