Patterico's Pontifications


Government Intervention and the Mortgage Meltdown

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 11:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

University of Michigan Professor Mark J. Perry posted excerpts at his blog Carpe Diem from Tuesday’s report by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding the 2007 housing bubble and recent financial crisis. The report listed government intervention as a significant cause:

“The housing bubble that burst in 2007 and led to a financial crisis can be traced back to federal government intervention in the U.S. housing market intended to help provide homeownership opportunities for more Americans. This intervention began with two government-backed corporations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which privatized their profits but socialized their risks, creating powerful incentives for them to act recklessly and exposing taxpayers to tremendous losses.”

The solution:

“Washington must reexamine its politically expedient but irresponsible approach to encouraging higher levels of homeownership based on imprudently small down payments and too little emphasis on borrowers’ creditworthiness and ability to repay their loans. Without such a return to fiscal discipline and responsibility, we will continue making the same mistakes that led us to the current financial crisis.”

I don’t think Washington is listening.


Guns In Texas

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 6:01 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This Austin story seems to be a case from the department of just rewards:

“Kelly Roan, 28, and his girlfriend might have gotten away with multiple burglaries, police say, if he hadn’t shot himself in the foot, literally.”

Meanwhile, in Houston, this case just seems sad:

“A woman accused in the shooting death of her common-law husband told police her gun accidentally fired while they were playing a game of “dirty cowboy” during sexual foreplay, a Harris County prosecutor said.”

Preliminary reports suggest neither shooter was legally in possession of his/her gun.


The AP’s Plan for the Web

Filed under: Blogging Matters — DRJ @ 3:35 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP has a new idea for use of content from media sources on the web:

“Tags identifying the author, publisher and other information – as well as any usage restrictions publishers hope to place on copyright-protected materials – would be packaged with each news article in a way that search engines can more easily identify.

By doing so, the AP hopes to make it easier for readers to find articles from more established news providers amid the ever-expanding pool of content online. That, in turn, could lead to more traffic and more online advertising revenue for a beleaguered news industry.”

The AP wants this approach to be an industry standard, not only to help MSM websites maximize and keep track of links and traffic but also to (somehow) prevent copyright violations.

I think this is a good idea. It was also a good idea when West Publishing invented a similar system 100 years ago. The Key Number System of Classification originated during the decade from 1897 to 1906. It digests the author, source, some copyright information, key words and a summary of legal concepts and sources.

The internet is new and modern but in some ways it’s not new at all.


Obama Visits the Pope

Filed under: Obama,Religion — DRJ @ 3:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Barack Obama visited the Pope today, and Pope Benedict XVI took the opportunity to emphasize their differences on abortion and stem cells. Newsweek and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend must have anticipated this would happen because yesterday they published a pro-Obama rebuttal — “Is Obama More Catholic than the Pope?: Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does.”

The article states many American Catholics are more likely to identify with Obama than the Pope on issues like abortion, homosexuality, and stem cells. It also portrays the Pope’s brand of Catholicism as an anachronism that suffers in comparison to American liberal-secular Catholicism and Protestantism.

Newsweek and Townsend may be right about American Catholics — they aren’t often on the same page as the Pope — but, if so, it’s a difficult day for the Catholic Church.


Obamacare faces a backlash from the Center-Left

Filed under: General — Karl @ 1:17 pm

[Posted by Karl]

Kirsten Powers, David Brooks and Michael Kinsley are not exactly charter members of the VRWC, but they do not have much nice to say about Obamacare — or the way Pres. Obama is trying to sell it to a skeptical public. Here’s Powers:

An analysis of a new poll from the centrist think tank Third Way finds that Obama needs to radically alter how he’s selling his plan to America.

Obama’s central message so far has focused on the promise of lower costs for health coverage and more accessibility. But the poll (conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group) suggests that these aren’t the most potent issues.

In fact, a mere 29 percent of respondents agreed with the promise that their premiums would go down as a consequence of reform. And regarding “accessibility,” only 9 percent said that in the last five years they were without coverage all or most of the time.

Moreover, when asked, “Who do you think will benefit most from reform?” a whopping 60 percent chose “other people, but not [me].”

Third Way labels this the “what’s in it for me?” phenomenon. It argues that Obama must convince the middle class — which largely has health care and is satisfied with that care — that his plan would benefit them.

David Brooks, while floating ideas that would make a government takeover of the US healthcare system even less politically saleable, recognizes the facts on the ground:

As Alec MacGillis reported in a front-page piece in The Washington Post this week, “All signs in Washington suggest that cost considerations will be kept at arm’s length as health-care legislation moves forward.” As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote in his column this week, “The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient,” and health care economists don’t see the current bills doing enough to fix that.

The basic problem is that the American people have gotten used to high-tech, all-everything health care, under the illusion that they don’t have to pay for it and that it’s always better for them. Politicians are unwilling to force voters and donors to give up that sort of system, even the parts that are ineffective.

Michael Kinsley piles on:

[P]eople, even liberals, are starting to get unnerved by the cost of all this. We now talk of trillions the way, even a few months ago, we spoke of billions. In mid-June, the Senate health committee put out its version of reform and was horrified when the Congressional Budget Office figured that it would cost a trillion dollars over 10 years (over current spending) and would still leave millions uninsured. The committee retreated to its lair and re-emerged in early July with a revised plan “scored” by the CBO as costing only $600 billion and leaving only 3 percent of the population uninsured. Six hundred billion doesn’t sound like all that much to achieve, or come close to achieving, an important and long-standing goal such as universal health care. But keep in mind that health-care reform is supposed to save money. Its premise is that the current path is unaffordable. In that sense, a “mere” $600 billion extra is total defeat.

And that’s before you recognize that the $600 billion figure is an accounting shell game – the program’s total outlays remain somewhere between $1 and $1.3 trillion. This dynamic is playing out even in the solidly Democratic House, where at least 40 members of the Blue Dogs were demanding changes to key aspects of the joint House bill and threatened to derail the leadership’s timetable.

Getting a pair of bills to a House-Senate conference and beyond requires that the House pacify enough Blue Dogs and that the Senate persuade enough centrists not to filibuster. It seems as though the recent efforts by Democratic leadership to adopt a more partisan approach has provoked a backlash in Congress and the punditocracy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid may have tipped their hands too soon.


Update: Roll Call reports that “House Democrats’ health care bill has been delayed indefinitely as leaders continue negotiations with fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats…”

Update x2: But wait, there’s more! From the Politico:

–Forty members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition – representing just enough votes to kill a party-line vote – articulated their “strong reservations about the process and direction” of an early preview of the bill offered by chairmen of the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees.

—A pair of junior members of the House garnered 60-plus signatures on a letter siding with prescription-drug makers and President Obama and against the call of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to reinstate some price controls.

—A group of 22 wayward New Democrats expressed their hope that government-sponsored health coverage would piggyback on Medicare’s pre-existing network, despite earlier opposition to the idea from caucus leaders.

—And finally, a mix of 20 rural and Western Democrats made their case for why the bill should fix inequities in the reimbursement rates Medicare pays to health care providers in “low-cost, high-quality” states.

Also, deranged Rep. Pete Stark updates us on the cost: “Right under $1 trillion… We’re trying to do it on the back of an envelope, but I don’t have any more than a guess.”


Obama and Independents: Cracks beneath the surface

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:06 am

[Posted by Karl]

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says that 59 is the most important number in politics today:

That’s the percent of independent voters who approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, according to Gallup polling conducted over the past month.

Obama’s numbers among independents are down slightly from Gallup polling in January (62 percent approve) but consistent with where he stood in March (59 percent) and April (60 percent).

As long as Obama’s job approval numbers stay in the 55 percent plus range among independents, the Administration is not likely to make any major course corrections.

However, Pres. Obama poll numbers are continuing to slip, particularly among independents, as state polls are beginning to show:

A Quinnipiac University poll of voters in economically troubled Ohio, released Tuesday, showed Obama’s approval rating slipping 8 points, to below 50 percent, from a poll two months earlier, with a plurality of 48 percent of independent voters disapproving of his job performance. A Public Policy Polling [PPP] survey in Virginia found Obama’s approval and disapproval numbers effectively tied, with independents disapproving of the president’s job performance, 52 percent to 38 percent.

“That is fairly consistent with all our polling around the country — Obama tends to be really well-liked personally, but he’s starting to lose a majority of the independents,” said Public Policy’s Dean Debnam. Democrats have “had long enough in some voters’ minds that they’re getting blame for nothing happening, and Republicans are scaring them around health care and tax increases.”

Fred Bauer (via Ed Morrissey) notes Obama’s slippage in a variety of polls from SurveyUSA, led by slides in independent support. Bauer also links to the roundup from PPP (a Democratic firm) stating that “[i]t’s been seven weeks now since we put out any poll- national or state level- that showed Barack Obama’s approval rating over 50% with independents.” In addition to the the national poll (with 49% of independents disapproving), the states include Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama and West Virginia. The erosion actually goes back further — independents were split on Obama in Colorado as far back as April.

Indeed, in April, PPP was already noting that Democratic Senators are lagging with independents.

As NRO’s Jim Geraghty tweets, “[t]he Quinnipiac poll went a long way toward changing DC’s conventional wisdom this week. Old: Obama still popular. New: Is He In Trouble?” Those looking at a Gallup poll of adults may not be asking that question… yet. But people looking at polls of likely voters in bellwether states, and states with hot elections in 2010, are asking. And probably wondering what those numbers will look like if — as widely predicted — unemployment continues to rise well into next year.


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