Thursday, February 26, 2009
Is there any reason to think the overall poverty numbers have gotten worse over the past year? Not really. We're not in a recession. ... No doubt the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities will come up with more sophisticated ways to make the mildly encouraging report seem like bad news. ... P.S.: Remember, when comparing the Bush numbers with the better numbers Clinton achieved at the end of the last decade, that the last part of the Clinton boom was based on an evanescent dot.com bubble. The current recovery is slower but presumably more solid. [You think the current mortgage mess/housing bubble isn't as big a deal as the dot.com bubble?--ed I think that.]
I would italicize the sentences that turned out to be flagrantly wrong, but, well ...
[What, you don't remember the dot-com bubble wiping out the nation of Iceland, or that time we had to nationalize Pets.com, or how Silicon Valley venture capitalists securitized their lending to internet start-ups and then traded these instruments at a 30-1 debt ratio? -- ed. Look, the real villain here is the CBPP, afraid to tell America the truth: that everything is just fine.]
But hey, the man does know his Supporting Actress favorites, so he's got that going for him.
Am I crazy to think that the failure of comprehensive immigration reform--and with it, the prospect (despite sponsors' assurances) of millions more legal and illegal immigrants--has something to do with the trouble in the housing market? link
I still suspect that the failure of immigration reform had something to do with the credit crunch--not because it was illegal immigrants defaulting on those mortgages, but because with lower prospective immigration the long-term value of all housing fell, making everyone's collateral worth less and lenders more reluctant to provide money secured by that collateral. How's that wrong? link
It seems highly plausible to me that there is some non-trivial causality running between the decrease in the net inflow of illegal immigrants and the real estate bust--all the immigrants who have disappeared would have had to live somewhere. link
Oh, right. So where have, say, Numbers USA and Tom Tancredo been in Mickey's half-assed parceling of blame for the housing collapse? Why do they get a pass in Mickey's patently absurd crisis narrative? Is it because demagoguing xenophobia is somehow less morally culpable in Mickey's world -- "sure, the financial ruin is bad, but at least there are fewer immigrants jostling for space in the soup line!" -- than institutions that encourage homeownership for poor people?
Do I even need to ask?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The people who helped produce the collapse--e.g. Jim Johnson, plus whoever had the bright idea of securitizing risky mortgages and insuring everything through AIG--are more to blame than governments that failed to invest in wind power.
Jim Johnson was head of Fannie Mae from 1991-1998, and was involved in an improper accounting scandal during that period. More recently, he received favorable loans from , CEO of and erstwhile cartoon villain.
So: (1) Johnson is a Tom Daschle-esque Washington whore, cashing in on his connections; (2) he was involved in the idiotic '90s practice of using reserves to smooth out volatility in earnings statements; and, most importantly here, (3) he used to run a prominent Kausfiles anger object.
To be sure, (1) and (2) establish Johnson as a scoundrel. But, uh ... "helped produce the collapse"? Isn't that a little much?
Ah, but Mickey -- once again! -- is rolling out the ol' "let's blame poor homeowners" strategy. Johnson is a player in this drama by virtue of being connected to Fannie Mae, and right-wingers blame Fannie Mae (and liberals, naturally) for the whole crisis.
As the theory goes, Fannie and the liberals forced lenders to make irresponsible mortgages to low-income borrowers, and then presumably compelled lenders to reward predatory lending practices to procure these mortgages and profit handsomely from packaging the loans and selling them to financial institutions who were themselves forced (by Freddie Mac, this time) to overleverage themselves and frantically buy and sell , and meanwhile the entire shadow banking system was speculating wildly in the CDO market (because of ... ACORN?) and then Barney Frank made them tie the whole enterprise up in a completely deregulated derivatives market created by ... uh ... Michael Moore? ... Nancy Pelosi? ... let's go with Hillary Clinton here, and by the time everyone realized that housing prices weren't going to go up forever, Barack Obama came along advocating the theories of noted Marxist John Maynard Keynes and the entire stock market crashed, from fear. (This is the subtitle of Amity Shlaes next book, btw).
Sure, Johnson doesn't quite fit the narrative -- Fannie Mae relaxed its standards for guaranteeing loans in 1999, *after* Johnson's tenure, and it's kind of implausible to connect Johnson's reduced-rate loans to the collapse of the entire U.S. housing market -- but when have actual facts deterred Mickey? Plus, laying the crisis at the feet of anti-poverty advocates fits with Mickey's theory that liberal interest groups are the root of all evil -- a thesis ("do-gooders actually do harm, suckers!") both contrarian and smugly comforting.
The more interesting part of the post is that Mickey actually acknowledges reality, however inadequately and grudgingly, with the tacked-on indictment of a few unnamed Wall Street types [Is it that hard to find the guy responsible for securitizing mortgages? -- ed. Not really. Larry Fink started it at First Boston (and pretty much everyone did it at the height of the market). He runs BlackRock now. He's even an Obama donor. Let the half-baked paranoid blogging commence!].
It's as though there's some reasonable side of Mickey trying to break through [Me? -- ed. No! Back in your cage!], but it just can't overpower Mickey's need to attack someone on his enemies' list ("Housing? Mortgages? It has to be Fannie Mae, right? Jim Johnson, I've got you now!"). I'd encourage Mickey to work on letting that side out more, but I suppose he considers his revenge-seeking side to be reasonable, too.
And besides, if he didn't spend his time kicking around Chris Bangle, Adam Nagourney, John and Elizabeth Edwards, Andrew Sullivan, the L.A. Times, Frank Rich, Jeffrey Toobin, Marc Ambinder, Nic Harcourt, Chris Lehane, Teacher's unions, Robert Reich, Markos Moulitsas, Philippe Reines, the UAW, Andy Stern, Jeffrey Goldberg, Arianna Huffington, unnamed "Money Liberals", Pinch Sulzberger, Ron Burkle, the MSM, Howell Raines, Ezra Klein, anyone promoting comprehensive immigration reform, E.J. Dionne, Kevin Drum, anyone who supports organized labor and didn't write an article bashing '70s-era liberalism, Andrew Cuomo, Bill Richardson, anyone involved with Fannie Mae gravy train, and Jon Klein ... what exactly would he have?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Here are Mickey's two rules for negotiating with unions:
1) Break the union.
2) There is no "2)".
Which is why it's not at all strange that he continues to believe that unions not only wish ruin upon the corporations they negotiate with, but also despise their members, hate America, kick babies, etc.:
Could it have been that Saturn's success--in a plant where workers traded inflexible work rules for responsibility and job satisfaction--threatened the hide-bound Wagner Act rulebooks of all of the UAW's other locals? So that the UAW pressured Saturn to build cars outside of its Spring Hill, Tennessee home--while it supported GM in systematically starving Saturn of new products? Just asking!
In case you're wondering what's missing there, it's called "a link to anything at all to support his theory". Curious, I went online to find what Mickey could be relying on here …
There is also the sneaking suspicion that UAW workers at plants covered by the old-style UAW work rules aren't exactly happy to be shown up by their brethren in Tennessee.
Oh, wait, that’s Mickey in 1998 (!). I wonder how many times he’s advanced this theory …
2001 -- [T]his heavily-advertised new vehicle was really part of a GM plot to kill off Saturn, which was guilty of producing reliable cars that put the rest of GM's offerings in an embarrassing light. To carry out their fiendish plan, GM executives decreed that the L-series would be built at a tired old plant in Delaware that isn't covered by the innovative labor agreement prevailing at Saturn's Spring Hill, Tenn. factory.
GM executives killed Saturn! Because of reliability!
2005 -- But GM's traditional divisions and its national union had good reason to want to extinguish Saturn, which after all was building reliable, well-made cars without complicated work rules! Saturn embarrassed the UAW.
The UAW killed Saturn! Because of embarrassment! (Note, too, how 1998’s “sneaking suspicion” of UAW jealousy has magically transformed into 2005’s acknowledged fact.)
2005 -- But the result wasn't that the Saturn model spread to other GM (or Ford) plants. The result was that the rest of GM--union and management--mobilized to make sure that Saturn got killed off as quickly as possible, a project they've almost completed.
They both killed Saturn, while working together! (BONUS: a welfare reform comparison, inapt even by Mickey’s low standards)
2005 -- The rest of GM--management and UAW--bitterly resents Saturn's success (which makes the non-Saturn divisions look bad). GM headquarters starves Saturn of new products. When Saturn finally gets a new midsized car, the UAW and GM insist it be built at a tired old-style factory in Wilmington, Del.
GM, the UAW, the CIA, the Mafia, Castro, LBJ, the Teamsters and the Freemasons killed Saturn!
2005 -- Why didn't GM build on [Saturn’s] success? Because the Saturn workers' very competence threatened the continued existence of other, less competent parts of General Motors--and there were more people working there than at .
The best part of this post is Mickey obliviously linking back to the 1998 piece as though it was a prescient omen of things to come, instead of evidence of how he recycles the same stupid thought over and over and over again.
[Will Mickey engage in fact-free speculation about the motives of labor unions seven years from now? – ed. FMK’s bold prediction: “yes”!]
2008 -- If the automakers react the way GM reacted when its Saturn subsidiary actually started making good cars, their legislative strategy is clear: Figure out a way to punish Ford!
GM killed Saturn (again)!
And, of course, now we have the UAW pulling the trigger, with GM complicit in the murder.
It's like the worst version of Rashomon you could ever imagine.
So, all told Mickey’s been “just asking!” about the role that UAW resentment – resentment of productivity, of reliability, of the apparent ability of management to unilaterally destroy an entire division on a whim – played in the demise of Saturn for over a goddamn decade now. Has anyone actually answered?
Put your hand down, Mickey.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Michael Barone notes how the relative decline in Hispanic immigration will increase the pressure on Latino leaders to make up for the losses in the 2010 census by getting the government to use statistical "sampling" techniques. ... The problem, of course, is that they may be sampling Latinos who are no longer there. ...
Leaving aside that this kind of fearmongering could just as easily be written about an *increase* in Hispanic immigration (wouldn't pressure on Latino leaders be even greater if they were gaining population?) ...
Leaving aside the unquestioned idea of Latino interest groups (all-powerful, naturally) "getting the government" to use statistical sampling when its been obvious for decades that the census dramatically undercounts certain populations and everyone except flat-earth types directly threatened by an accurate census accepts sampling ...
... ahem ...
... YOU CAN'T SAMPLE LATINOS WHO AREN'T THERE. What it means to take a sample is that you extrapolate data from a segment of the population to make estimates about the population as a whole. One can imagine a sample that contains fewer Latinos -- no doubt thanks to our nation's
One could argue that an estimate based on sampling could erroneously reflect people who aren't there (of course, in reality this kind of Type I error would be far, far outweighed by the Type II errors inherent in an actual enumeration), and I think this is what Mickey is trying to get at with his "Gran Salida Requires Gran Fudging" headline and in light of his fairly frequent immigration hysterias. Then again, the writing is so confusing that Mickey might be arguing for sampling techniques as a method to undercount (or properly count? my head hurts ...) the Latino population.
[An alternate reading of the piece is that he's trying to simultaneously criticize Barone, paint Latino leaders as naive, and question the reliability of statistics -- ed. Hey, throw in an attack on unions and a pointless Julia Allison reference and you've got a week's work at Kausfiles.]
Ordinarily, an inability to grasp the most basic terms necessary to understand the debate precludes a writer from wading into a particular issue ... but my sample of Mickey's non-existent professionalism indicates that we're way past all that now.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Preserving Clinton's biggest domestic achievement isn't something you should want "even" if you're a liberal who believes in affirmative government. It's something you should want especially if you're a liberal who believes in affirmative government.
(This is the point when liberals who believe in affirmative government should check to make sure their wallets are still there.)
On behalf of liberals who believe in affirmative government, allow me to excerpt the relevant portions of our wish-list:
1) A job and a pension for young and old (or at least some federal expenditures to pull us out of our current tailspin) ...
356) Mickey jumping out of a plane, realizing that his parachute is a knapsack, and then falling slowly out of view until we hear a thud and see a cloud of dust rising from the bottom of a canyon ...
2114) The federal government continuing the incentive for states to keep welfare caseloads low (Bill Clinton's biggest domestic accomplishment!) in the middle of a rising wave of unemployment and economic contraction ...
See? Liberals do want the survival of the caseload reduction credit. We just gotta get to a few other things first. Thanks for the concern, though.
[Isn't this where Mickey cites the First Law of High Contrarianism -- liberalism can be neither created nor destroyed -- and argues that you can't have #1 without #2114, much like you can't help unskilled workers without a border fence and you can't redistribute wealth without killing the UAW? -- ed. Yes, increasingly shrill voice inside my head -- history has shown that you just can't expand unemployment benefits in tandem with successful federal investment in jobs creation. Except for, you know, that one time.]
Besides the sheer volume (can you tell that Mickey's been looking for an excuse to write about welfare reform since 1996?), there's not a lot to Mickey's thesis here. You can even play along at home. First, take a look at this unemployment chart:
Now, ignore that chart. Assume it's 1996 and we're still right in the middle of Clinton's economic expansion, with jobs a-plenty. The only thing that would lead people to go on welfare is
The next step is to assume completely-inexplicable-yet-entirely-nefarious motives ("the Dems would like" caseloads to "soar"!; Money Liberals want "[l]ots of new people on welfare"!). Why on Earth do Dems and "Money Liberals" (a term destined to go viral) want these things?
/tumbleweed rolls by
/lone audience member coughs
Finally, assert that stopping liberals will be ... great for liberalism! Hooray?
[T]he now-undermined welfare reform was the key to rebuilding confidence in (liberal) affirmative government.
I'd ordinarily say that this is the kind of unprovable, ridiculous assertion that Mickey throws in between two data points, hoping that his readers won't see the scotch tape holding it together, but he's got it totally right.
The Confidence In Liberal Affirmative Government Metric (CILAGM) is at 7.2, its highest level in decades, and a Gallup poll taken right after the 2006 election credited "Rebuilt Confidence in Affirmative Government due to Welform Reform of 1996" as their reason for returning Democrats to power.
It's just science.
Bonus Tip: If cornered by actual economic reality, pull the ol' switcheroo:
But lack of jobs isn't a reason to loosen work requirements. It's a reason for the government to provide the jobs.
"Lack of hair isn't a reason for you to refuse to sleep with me. It's a reason for you to buy me a toupee."
Here's how Mickey -- a closet Keynesian, apparently -- plans to enact his federal jobs-providing legislation:
Step 1: Crawl into bed with the truly insane anti-stimulus crowd and scream incessantly that the stimulus (and not, you know, the economic disaster that the stimulus is supposed to alleviate) is going to put people on welfare again.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: The New Deal.
Judging from his blogging -- and it's not so much blogging as it is rewriting "The End of Equality", the second time as farce -- Mickey's preferred course of action is to use red state animus over welfare to cajole Democrats into creating a new Civilian Conservation Corps, to be run by the Heritage Foundation for the good of the working poor.
If only the world was ready for you, Mickey.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Reading Mickey is goddamn exhausting.
But fear not, loyal reader -- if Mickey can write about the same five things over and over again, I can write about Mickey writing about the same five things over and over again, over and over again.
Until my head explodes.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
- The Cato Institute (pegging the welfare expansion as $3BN);
- The Heritage Foundation (which has the cost at -- hold on to something -- $787BN);
- Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner (unspecified "billions"; he also calls Mickey a "journalist"!); and
- The New York Post ("His "stimulus" bill is not change we can believe in. It's a return to big-government welfare that we will choke on").
In fairness, he does link to two articles in the New York Times. Unfortunately, he does so to prove the existence of a new "larger liberal campaign" to roll back work requirements and get everyone back on the dole (because Democrats hate it when people have jobs -- it's true!).
[Uh, are we sure welfare isn't back in the news because the country is hemhorraging jobs? -- ed. Please, we all know it's because the unemployed and destitute have a powerful cabal of lobbyists and PR men!]
The best link of the bunch is Heritage's article, which arrives at their massive figure through a combination of wild speculation ("both Congress and President Obama intend for most of these increases to become permanent") and definitional sleight-of-hand (the EITC, Head Start and Pell Grants (!) all seem to be counted as "welfare"). After redefining reality to match their imagination ("the goal of the bills is spreading the wealth"), they accuse Congress of having untoward motives:
The claim that Congress is temporarily increasing welfare spending for Keynesian purposes (to spark the economy by boosting consumer spending) is a red herring. The real goal is to get "the camel's nose under the tent" for a massive permanent expansion of the welfare state.
Well, grants to low-income college students do discourage hard work and early childhood education clearly encourages a culture of dependence. Only the Heritage Foundation has the guts to say what we all know ...
You'd think Mickey might notice that a few of his cites have red flags (seriously, John, a "journalist"?), but Mickey's gone native:
If a state somehow succeeds at placing would-be recipients in jobs, it's out of luck under this provision. To get the extra federal money, it has to get more people on welfare.
Ah, he's referring to New Kausland, the state that would actively prefer to have high unemployment, just so it can get its hands on some federal money (federal money in New Kausland is worth three times as much as regular money, and smells of sweet perfume).
The best part about all of this is that Mickey seems to believe that the Heritage foundation -- currently endorsing the insane "more tax cuts" plan while citing to discredited-and-inaptly-named hack Amity Shlaes as proof that government just doesn't work -- and their ilk really have the best interest of the country at heart, as he approvingly repeats their call to arms ("better to whack off the camel while you're outside the tent", or something). Meanwhile, he just assumes that the Democrats are subversively trying to permanently expand welfare because ... well ... because they're evil! That's why!
Hey, wait, I forgot another one of Mickey's links:
Today, only about 40 percent of families eligible for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program actually receive it.
Goodness. Maybe that's why people think removing the state's incentives to decrease caseloads is necessary in bad economic times? And maybe conservatives are not actually making good faith arguments about the moral hazard of incentivizing unemployment, but are, in fact, pathetically trying to revive the demagoguing that dominated the "welfare reform" issue for nearly two decades (recipients = shiftless and lazy; proponents = sinister socialists) because stoking hate and fear is the only thing they know how to do?
No, no ... I must be overthinking things.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Okay, you sit down to read your Slate, and you're enjoying your Daniel Gross and Fred Kaplan and Dahlia Lithwick, right? And then there's Mickey fucking Kaus, bottom right hand corner, just waiting to suck. And it's the last thing you read, so it spoils everything you read before it.
[You could just not read it. -- ed.]
I hate it, yet I'm uncontrollably drawn to it.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Man, as soon as I put up a post saying how tolerable Mickey had become (6 in a row!), he throws up a missive about how awful it is that the least of us might stand to get benefits from the stimulus package.
The less fortunate get all the breaks!
Better to use the money (and more) to create public jobs*** for these would-be recipients if private sector jobs have dried up, even if that upsets municipal employee unions (which don't want welfare recipients doing jobs their members might do)?
Oh, it's all there: grammatical problems (why, precisely, is that sentence a question?), ridiculous assumptions (municipal employee unions -- and not, say, Senate Republicans -- are the true enemies of progress!), and unrealistic alternative outcomes (the return of the WPA is apparently on the table -- who knew?!?) employed in an attempt to shame Democrats into supporting Republican positions and politicians.
Of course, it's all
It's good to have you back, Mickey.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
[The good bloggers know to bury their final conclusion under mounds and mounds of vacillations --ed. "Vacillations"? A desk fan is known to vacillate; Mickey flailed wildly from one conclusion to another. He had so many "on the other hand" caveats that by the day of the invasion he looked like Vishnu.]
Also, something he wrote actually came true!
Yesterday's CW: This Daschle business stinks. He has to withdraw!
Today's CW: He sure withdrew easily. Weird.
Tomorrow's CW: Obama sure gave up on him easily. Wimp!
It's like the media's version of the Madonna/Whore complex. If you give in too quickly, they lose respect.
Not quite three days later:
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I had a link ready to Pajama Media's hilarious collapse, and was coming up with some pithy comment about how it looks like a few of them could have used a jobs bank.
Maybe I would have played compare-and-contrast with Mickey's own ten-percent-pay-cut-on-demand arrangement with management (with all proceeds going to an MSM Dinosaur, no less).
Alas, some other blog beat me to it:
But, hah, the fact that a rich person wouldn't want their company unionized and that such a unionization would basically be impossible to accomplish at the moment and the fact that the end result of such a unionization would be that good workers like Linkins would be better-compensated is basically the argument for the terrible scary Card Check legislation, so good for you, Mickey, you are doing the lord's work.
Clearly, bloggers need a union -- only legalistic work rules can prevent this kind of duplicative Kaus-bashing.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Okay, that wasn't all. More notes on the idiocy of David Brooks:
- Is it only people in Northwest D.C. that hate "dumb people who are richer than they are"? Isn't hatred of these people pretty much universal?
- I understand that D.C. policy wonks are famously ugly, but how does Wall Street represent "people with good bone structure"? Have you been to Wall Street? I guess John Thain kinda looks like David Hasselhoff with a shirt on, but still ...
- Apparently, there aren't any "lawyers, TV producers and senior civil servants" in New York. Just can't find a lawyer anywhere in Manhattan! (My theory w/r/t his belief that the center of the media world is D.C.:
- Another one of the three things people in Northwest D.C. disdain: "cleavage." Really? Was there a poll?
- Also, doesn't New York disdain "hunting", too? Probably even more so that D.C., right? Isn't this one better suited to some manufactured "Upper West Side vs. Wasilla, Alaska" hate-off? ("Wasillans despise three things: non-Second Amendment rights, phonies, and restaurants with unlaminated menus.") It's pretty clear this one's on the list just so the right-wing anger bears can reminisce about the good times, when Brooks' Jeff-Foxworthy-channels-the-culture-war routine allowed the rank-and-file to pretend that the corrupt oligarchy they were abetting was (surprise!) actually a populist movement.
- Is there a more perfect encapsulation of David Brooks than his statement that -- in the midst of two wars, an enormous financial collapse, a recession, climate change, and any number of actually important policy disputes in Washington -- he's "become increasingly concerned about the rising number of rich people who are being caught unawares by shifts in the sumptuary code"? I say no.
Then there was John Thain, who was humiliated because it is no longer acceptable to spend $35,000 on a commode for a Merrill Lynch washroom.
Back on Sunday, Deborah Solomon and J.D. Trout, in one of Solomon's usual Russert-level dialogues, had this exchange:
[JT:] When you’re spending lots of excess money — money that wouldn’t make any difference to your subjective well-being — you’re spending the money on a hedonic vomitorium of sorts.
[DS:] You’re comparing piano lessons to the apocryphal vomitoriums into which decadent Romans supposedly regurgitated their dinner?
[JT:] The vomitorium image is just the idea that you’re consuming something that can’t be used by other people, and it gets wasted on you.
A commode is -- and I believe we went through this with Duke Cunningham, didn't we? -- a set of drawers (h/t). You don't put it in a washroom.
A vomitorium is a tunnel in an amphitheater. (Solomon almost avoids the error, but the vomitoriums weren't "apocryphal" -- the Roman vomit parties were.) Vomitoriums allow actors to come onstage, and aren't actual conduits for purging.
These people are paid to use words correctly. That is all.
Then, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand disappoints Mickey by choosing to have a chance at winning a statewide election instead of waging war against the forces of evil (education benefits for children of immigrants).
Thus -- stabbed in the back by politicians acting in their obvious self-interest (who could have seen that coming?) and refusing to advance the agenda of some random dude in Southern California waiting for the Know-Nothing Party to return and merge with the Pinkertons -- a disillusioned Mickey opens his web browser and wearily scans the news ...
Smile, Mickey! The day is yours!
Yikes ... on second thought ...