Tag Archives: economy

Auto Dealers Ending Their Cash for (Political) Clunkers Program

cash-for-clunkers-we-can-helpThe nation’s largest auto dealers association has apparently decided to end its long standing participation in the Cash for (Political) Clunkers program.

An historically dependable source of income for Republicans in the House and Senate, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has long contributed about twice as much to Republican election campaigns than to Democrats.

In 2008, the NADA gave $968,000 to Democrats and $1,892,000 to Republicans ($923,000 to House Democrats and $1,679,500 to House Republicans; $45,000 to Senate Democrats and $212,500 to Senate Republicans).

In 2006, the results were similar – the NADA gave $842,600 to Democrats and $1,978,500 to Republicans ($752,600 to House Democrats and $1,827,000 to House Republicans; $90,000 to Senate Democrats and $151,500 to Senate Republicans).

The ratio was also similar in 2004 – the NADA gave $714,500 to Democrats and $1,888,800 to Republicans ($630,500 to House Democrats and $1,698,800 to House Republicans; $84,000 to Senate Democrats and $190,000 to Senate Republicans).

But for the 2010 election, the Auto Dealers’ political contributions have dramatically shifted gears.

So far, the NADA has given $134,300 to Democrats and only $43,000 to Republicans.  This figure includes $101,800 to House Democrats and $43,000 to House Republicans, and $32,500 to Senate Democrats and nothing at all to Senate Republicans.

The reasons for this unprecedented shift in the Auto Dealers’ political allegiance is pretty obvious: The Republicans have told Detroit and the nation’s auto dealers to drop dead, opposing both the Obama administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry and it’s hugely popular “Cash for Clunkers” program.

Here in Orange County, Republicans in Congress have benefited enormously in the past from the NADA’s political contributions.

In 2008, John Campbell (R-48th CD) – an auto dealer himself — received $10,000 from the NADA, which was the largest amount they gave to individual campaigns that year.  In  2006, the year that he was elected to his first full term, they gave Campbell $20,000, also the largest amount given to any campaign and twice as much as they gave to anyone else.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-46th CD) received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, $5,000 in 2006, and $10,000 in 2004.

Ken Calvert (R-44th CD) also received $7,500 from the NADA in 2008, as well as $5,000 in 2006 and $5,000 in 2004.

What did the auto dealers get for their money?

Recently, not much.

On the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, the auto bail out bill, Campbell voted “present” (citing his personal financial interest), while criticizing those who voted in favor.

Calvert voted “No,” calling it the “nationalization of the auto industry,” and Rohrabacher did not bother to vote at all.

On the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program (the Cash for Clunkers bill), Campbell did vote “Aye” against his party, (apparently no longer concerned about his personal financial stake in the auto dealer business), as did Calvert, but Rohrabacher voted “No,” complaining that the bill is “nothing more than a subsidy to prop up auto manufacturers, many of which have already received billions in taxpayer money.”

As we get closer to the 2010 campaign, we’ll see whether the auto dealers again make the mistake they’ve made in the past of giving cash to these political clunkers.

So far, it seems that they’ve shifted gears and are driving in another political direction.

Who’s the Girlie-Man Now?

Back in July 2004, when the California legislature was 17 days late in voting on the state budget, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger mocked Democratic legislators by calling them“girlie-men.”

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The Democrats, Schwarzenegger said, were “part of a bureaucracy that is out of shape, that is out of date, that is out of touch and that is definitely out of control in Sacramento… They cannot have the guts to come out there in front of you and say, ‘I don’t want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests: the unions, the trial lawyers.’ … I call them girlie-men. They should get back to the table and they should finish the budget.”

With his political muscles still pumped from his 1.3 million vote margin of victory in the October 2003 recall election, Schwarzenegger made a series of highly publicized appearances across the state, threatening the Democratic legislators who had not approved his budget in language taken from his Hollywood persona: “I want each and every one of you to go the polls on Nov. 2nd,” he told the voters. “That will be judgment day. I want you to go to the polls. … You are the terminators, yes!”

All that now seems as long ago and far away as Schwarzeneggar’s epic Hercules in New York.

With a $42 billion budget short-fall, the worst credit rating in the nation, schools and social services on the verge of collapse, infrastructure crumbling, state offices closed, more than 200,000 state workers on forced unpaid furlough, and no new budget in sight, our Action Hero Governor has gone into hiding.

The blustering larger-than-life Hollywood hero riding across the state with his machismo exploding and his political guns blazing has turned into a pathetically meek mendicant, crouching under his desk and writing letters to Washington begging the president for federal charity.

When Arnold The Terminator arrogantly (and homophobicly) called Democratic legislators “girlie-men” in 2004, he meant to say that they were weak, impotent cowards, incapable of standing up to the special interests in their party for the good of the state.

Now it is the Republicans who are making it impossible for state to pass a budget, throwing a tantrum and holding their breath until the state turns blue.

And it is Arnold, the has-been hero, who clearly lacks the political cojones to stand up to the special interests in his party.

Who’s the girlie-man now?

As Economy Crashes, We’re Killing Our Pets

As Americans are being forced to choose between buying food for their children or keeping their pets, or between paying for pet food or for their utilities bills, the economic crisis means death for thousands — perhaps millions — of abandoned dogs and cats.

And as the foreclosure crisis spreads and homeowners are being forced to become renters, millions of pets are being left behind to fend for themselves.

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Most of them will die.

USA Today has reported that across the country, areas with high foreclosures are seeing increased rates of pet abandonment, and shelters are worried that even more could be coming as unemployment rates rise.

The Humane Society of the United States, which has initiated a program called the Foreclosure Pets Fund to help families keep their pets even in the event of financial hardship, points out that “Pets have been among the voiceless victims of the current economic downturn. Animals have been left behind in foreclosed homes, and shelters are reporting that families are struggling to keep and feed pets… Abandoned pets face a grim future. Many pets trapped inside abandoned homes aren’t found until they’re on the brink of starvation. Those lucky enough to reach a shelter have about a 50 percent chance of being adopted.”

A recent poll found that one in seven owners nationwide reported reduced spending on their pets and of those cutting back, more than a quarter said they considered giving up their pet.

The average annual cost of owning a dog is about $1,400, while the average annual cost of a cat is about $1,000, according to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. The survey suggests there are some 231 million pets — excluding fish — in more than 71 million homes in America.

Here in Orange County, California, the number of abandoned dogs and cats euthanized at the county animal shelter hit a five-year high in 2008. There were 31,492 dogs and cats taken in by the shelter last year – a 13 percent jump from 2007.  Of those, nearly half – 15,265 – were killed, a 31 percent increase.

These lethal numbers are going to increase dramatically in 2009.

The Orange County Register also reports that “The grim picture is not Orange County’s alone. ‘We believe that the increases we’re seeing are a result of the economic crisis, and many shelters across the nation are facing many of the same issues,’ said Ryan Drabek, spokesman for Orange County Animal Care Services. ‘It would be a very easy cop out for us to say it’s the economy if it didn’t seem to be effecting anyone else, but everyone in the animal care world is being affected by this.’”

The New York Times has reported that at New York City’s main animal shelter, for example, monthly calls to the volunteers who can help people keep their pets through tough financial times doubled between January and September 2008.

The Times also quotes the animal control officer in Bridgeport, Connecticut, saying “People are coming out and saying that they’re losing their homes and can’t keep the pet. It’s such a big problem now, they seem to feel able to tell you the exact reason, beyond a simple ‘I’m moving.’ ”

At the Henry County Animal Care and Control in McDonough, Georgia, the number of abandoned pets was up 71 percent for the first four months of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society, told the Times that “In terms of relinquishment, I’d say this is the most serious circumstance that I can recall.  And as more pets are being turned in, he noted, cash donations to animal rescue groups have declined and fewer people are adopting pets. It’s a bit of a triple whammy.”

According to the Associated Press, “The population growth at animal shelters in Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and other states shows how the weak economy is also shrinking the pool of potential adopters. And it coincides with a drop-off in government funding and charitable donations. The effect has been cramped quarters for dogs and cats, a faster rate of shelters euthanizing animals and some shelters turning away people looking to surrender pets, according to interviews with several shelters and animal advocates.”

Of the estimated 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats sent to animal shelters in the United States every year, half are now euthanized.

That number will increase drastically as the economic crisis forces more and more families to choose between feeding themselves and their children or feeding their pets.

Winners and Losers 2008

Here is a list of winners and losers for 2008.

palin-fail

As befits a year in which the economy collapsed and wars dragged on, the list of losers is longer than the list of winners.

Two names made the list of both winners and losers.

Feel free to add or subtract names and to add commentary.

The year isn’t over, so the list may change.

Winners

Barack Obama
Michelle Obama
Hillary Clinton
Rachel Maddow
Pixar
Bankruptcy lawyers
Facebook
Robert Gates
Jonas Brothers
Bill Ayers
Heather Mills
Sarah Palin
Democrats
Beyoncé
Harrison Ford
Joe Biden
Robert Downey, Jr.
The Taliban
Mexican drug cartels
Prisons
AIG
Lawrence Summers
David Axelrod
Rahm Emanuel
Paul Volker
Vladimir Putin
Tom Daschle
John Podesta
Britney Spears
Keith Olbermann
C.C. Sabbathia
Philadelphia Phillies
Brett Farve
will.i.am
Eli Manning
Bank of America
Christopher Buckley
Walmart
Mark Begich
Muntadhar al-Zaidi
Somali pirates
Guy Ritchie
Emo vampires
Carla Bruni
Google
Tom Udall
Mark Udall
John Kerry
Al Gore
Kay Hagan
Mickey Rourke
Mike Huckabee
Jeff Merkley
Michael Phelps
Jason Lezak
Heath Ledger
Rafael Nadal
Repo Men
Global warming
Handguns

Losers

OJ Simpson
Bernard L. Madoff
Anthony Pellicano
George W. Bush
John McCain
Republicans
Alan Greenspan
Realtors
Iraq
Paul McCartney
Newspapers
Local television
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
William J. Jefferson
Circuit City
Lehman Brothers
Detroit
John Edwards
Myspace
Steve Schmidt
Chinese milk
Star Wars
Yahoo
Wachovia Corp.
Washington Mutual
Karl Rove
Sam Zell
Richard H. Davis
U.S. Automakers
The South
Mortgage brokers
Ben Bernanke
Henry Paulson
Same Sex Marriage
Merrill Lynch
Book publishers
Airlines
Homeland Security
Rush Limbaugh
The Fed
Britney Spears
Rod Blagojevich
Scooter Libby
Bill Clinton
Jeremiah Wright
Mitt Romney
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Las Vegas
California
Arnold Schwartzeneggar
Eliot Spitzer
Gordon Smith
Raffaello Follieri
Workers
Sarah Palin
Ted Stevens
Washington Mutual
Yeshiva University
Africa
India
Bill O’Reilly
New York Mets
Plaxico Burress
Broadway
Phil Gramm
Museum of Modern Art (MOCA) Los Angeles
Mikheil Saakashvili
Christopher Cox
Joe Lieberman
Jewish charities
Public schools
Community colleges
John E. Sununu
Elizabeth Dole
Miley Cyrus
Countrywide
Angelo Mozilo
Max Mosley
Kwame Kilpatrick
Heath Ledger
Roger Clemens
Baytown, Texas
Galveston Island, Texas
Missouri
The Bill of Rights

Rush Limbaugh Offers New Hope for Progressives Nervous about Obama’s Cabinet

Rush Limbaugh, of all people, has offered renewed hope to progressives, such as Frank Rich, Tim Carpenter and others, who are nervous about the centrism of Barack Obama’s cabinet picks.

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According to Limbaugh, Obama’s centrist cabinet selections are merely a smoke screen for his plans to radically reconstruct America along progressive economic and social lines and finish the job that Franklin D. Roosevelt started in his New Deal.

Forget about the middle-of-the-roaders, recycled Clintonistas and (even) Republicans in Obama’s cabinet, Limbaugh says.  What Obama means to do is lead America to a new, bigger and more sweeping New Deal that will embrace and revitalize the progressive governmental activism of the early years of the Roosevelt administration.

To this end, Limbaugh insists that Obama actually wants the economic crisis to get worse before he takes office.  That’s why, and not because of an abstract belief that America has only one president at a time, Limbaugh says, Obama has not moved more forcefully to influence economic policy prior to his inauguration.  Limbaugh claims that Obama figures that the more desperate the country’s economic crisis, the easier it will be for him to achieve his goal of transforming the government into an engine of progressive economic and social activism.

What Limbaugh suggests is that Obama is planning on a progressive version of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” of disaster capitalism, in which “‘only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change’.  When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; [Milton] Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the ‘tyranny of the status quo’. ”

Except that in this instance, it won’t be conservatives and Friedmanites who are employing the disaster capitalism shock doctrine, but progressives.

The irony, of course, is that it was the use of the shock doctrine of disaster capitalism (in the Reagan years and beyond) — in which corporations systematically exploited the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies shock and crisis to remove regulations and government oversight of their activities — that produced the economic mess were in now.

Another way to look at Limbaugh’s argument it is that Obama is using the current economic crisis as his own 9-11, hoping that the fear generated by economic disaster will force his opponents to capitulate to fundamental changes that in other, safer times they would have obdurately refused to accept.

Thanks, Rush.

I hope you’re right.

Don’t Blame Bush

The blame is already being dished as John McCain’s presidential campaign sputters toward a crushing election defeat and the Democrats are poised to take control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

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Most of the pointing fingers are aimed at the universally loathed George W. Bush, who has become the public face of both economic catastrophe and battlefield disaster.

Other leading candidates for the role of principal victim in the Republican blame game are John McCain – he didn’t run a tough enough campaign or didn’t appeal enough to the party’s evangelical or populist base – and Sarah Palin – she wasn’t ready to be president or didn’t broaden her appeal beyond the party’s evangelical or populist base.

But George W. Bush is not the cause of the Republican Party’s looming election debacle, and neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin is the reason for their party’s 2008 collapse. 

Americans like to personalize politics, preferring to embrace or repudiate personalities rather than policies.  When we evaluate our politicians, we talk about their personal qualities – such as leadership, competence, integrity, consistency, and authenticity.  We like to say that we vote for the candidate not the party.

For this reason, our public debate on the causes of the Republican has focused on questions of Bush’s incompetence, McCain’s temperament, and Palin’s ignorance.

But blaming any or all of them for the coming massive Republican defeat misses the real culprit and lets too many others off the hook.

The cause of the Republican’s imminent electoral disaster is not the personal qualities of their elected officials and candidates, but the fundamental beliefs and policy assumptions of the Republican Party. 

It is these fundamental beliefs and policy assumptions that have caused the nation’s economic meltdown, which has in turned caused the meltdown of the Republican Party.

And every single Republican office holder, from the president to the lowest down-ticket county official, regardless of their personal qualities, shares in the blame.

The modern Republican Party, and every Republican, has embraced these two basic beliefs:

  • No to government regulation of markets and the economy.  A fundamental belief of every Republican is that the economy works best – that is, it is more productive and creates more wealth – when unconstrained by regulation.
  •  No to taxes.  Every Republican believes that taxes, especially on the wealthiest Americans, should be always lower and eliminated whenever possible.  Under no circumstances should there be a tax increase, even in order to fund necessary government program. 

These two fundamental tenets of Republican policy have created the economic crisis the nation is now suffering, and nearly every other crisis that the nation is now facing can be traced to Republican adherence to these principles – including our soaring national debt, our crumbling infrastructure, our failing schools, our ecological vandalism, our oil dependency, our exploding prison population, our shameful veterans hospitals, and our inequitable and dysfunctional heath care system.

Every other Republican talking point – from abortion to immigration to support for continuing the war in Iraq – is contingent and conditional.  There are Republicans who disagree with the party leadership on these issues.

But there are no Republicans who have not sworn eternal hostility to taxes and economic regulation.  One simply cannot be a Republican without embracing these two fundamental policies that have brought near catastrophe to the world economy, to the operations of federal, state and local government, and, finally, and deservedly, to the Republican Party itself.

What has brought America to the brink of disaster and the Republican Party to the brink of an election defeat of historic proportions?

It’s not just Bush.

It’s not just McCain and Palin.

It’s Republicans.

Each and every one of them.

Don’t let Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Chris Shays, or your local Republican senator or schoolboard member put the blame on someone else.

As another famous Republican once said, they’re all bad.

Begging the Banks

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today called on the banks that the federal government has just given $250 billion dollars to make that money available to others in the economy.

beggars“We must restore confidence in our financial system,” Paulson said. “The needs of our economy require that our financial institutions not take this new capital to hoard it, but to deploy it.”

The “needs of our economy” might require that the banks not hoard the money that the government has given them, but the Bush administration isn’t requiring much of anything.

I agree with Paulson that the economy will not begin to recover until there is liquidity in the credit markets.  That, indeed, was the rationale behind the government’s massive and unprecedented bailout of the financial industry.

Why, then, is Paulson asking the banks to do the only thing that justified giving them those billions of taxpayer dollars?

If, as is apparent to just about everyone, the economy will not recover until liquidity is restored to financial markets, why doesn’t the federal government require that the banks not hoard the billions that the government is giving them?

The answer is that, despite the acuteness of the financial crisis, and despite the government’s belated decision to take large scale action, the basic approach of the Bush administration has not changed.

In fact, for the past year, the Bush administration has taken a consistent, and faulty, two pronged approach to dealing with the expanding economic crisis, and this approach has not changed with the latest bailout.

This two pronged approach is

  • (1) make capital available at extremely low rates to banks and financial institutions with the goal of restoring liquidity, and then
  • (2) beg and plead with these same banks and financial institutions to move this capital into the economy.

As the housing and mortgage crisis worsened, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced a series of cuts in interest rates.  Each time, Bernanke repeated his call for lenders to voluntarily reduce the principal on delinquent loans to adjust them for the drop in home prices, rejecting the far more more forceful action proposed by Democrats favoring legislation that would require the refinancing of hundreds of thousands of mortgages.

Of course, the banks did not voluntarily do what Bernanke requested.

Now Treasury Secretary Paulson is following the same dead end path in asking the banks to voluntarily take the actions that are needed for the restoration of the market.

The Bush adminstration’s beg and plead approach did not work in the past, and it will not work now.

Of course, no one, except the apocalypticals of the far Left and Right, and Libertarians driven crazy by ideology or alcoholism, want to see the global economy collapse.  Sane people don’t want to see bread lines or live with their guns at the ready in a bunker in the woods.

But we can now longer expect that capitalists, driven by personal gain, will voluntarily act to save the system that sustains them.

What is needed is a comprehensive and mandatory overhaul of the entire banking and financial system and the credit markets on the order of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.

And for that, we’ll have to wait at least until a new Congress, a new administration, and a new political and economic philosophy take over in January 2009.

I hope we last that long.