The Limits of a “3 Minute Rahm” in Obama’s Kitchen Cabinet

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rahm emanuel barack obama twn.jpgI can’t get into names, but if a crafty business journalist got on the phone to the biggest billionaires and financial wizards who support the Democratic Party and Barack Obama, he or she would find a large passel of very frustrated economic elites who think that Obama’s stimulus package and spending priorities are not going to either restore confidence and economic growth or reinvest in the backbone of the US economy in a way that can help generate recurring returns for future generations of citizens.
The folks I am talking to are definitely not part of the market fundamentalist Robert Rubin fan club. They see the world differently, but I’m beginning to wonder if we really all should be very worried that some in Obama’s economic kitchen cabinet (or who we think is in it) are so dissatisfied with the substance of the policy outcomes we are seeing thus far.
I asked one of them who I assume can get through to the President or at least to Rahm Emanuel any time he wants why he doesn’t make his case more clearly to the occupants of the White House. The response was, “Yes, I can get through to Rahm Emanuel any time, but I get three minutes with him, and then someone else gets their three minutes, and so on. Rahm is the three minute guy — and he’s great during those three minutes.”
Wealthy donors on the outside of the political process probably should not be able to just call up the President and get their way — but the frustration I’m hearing from a great number of these types of donors — types who are not only wealthy and helped finance much of the Democratic Party’s victory in November but who are also smart and connected — is that they are not getting through where it counts. The policy options they are proposing aren’t getting into the basket of proposals that Obama is considering.
In other words, some feel that Obama is not getting a full range of choices on the economy and is being provided a narrow band of views that fit the preconceived biases of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.
One of the fatal mistakes of the Bush administration in the build up to the Iraq War was the tight constriction of choices and views that Bush’s advisors allowed him to see.
Let’s hope that the Obama team isn’t making the same mistake on the economy.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

84 comments on “The Limits of a “3 Minute Rahm” in Obama’s Kitchen Cabinet

  1. questions says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/02/AR2007030200827.html
    Kid who died from tooth abscess.
    Read in DailyKos nyceve’s diaries about health care and read “the bag of health and politics’s” diaries about health care. There are so many stories out there of completely unnecessary suffering and death because of our panic over altering the mess of a health care system we have. The same interchange we’ve had above has been repeated on blogs, radio stations and in newspapers. Need for change meets fear of change. I’m ok meets what if I lose out. Keep my insurance meets ok, a few bucks for them, too. The problem is that there are structural problems with for-profit insurance, there are coordination problems with expensive imaging machines, there are conflicts of interest all over the place. Many people think they are in better shape than they really are.
    I wish you the best of luck and health, and I sincerely hope that we end up with a more rational and fairer health care system than what we have now.

    Reply

  2. silverslipper says:

    Questions:
    This is my last post about this because we will just keep going in circles.
    Yes, I know that if I lose my job, I’ll lose my insurance. I’m glad for COBRA. I’ve paid COBRA in the past to keep my insurance in between jobs. President Obama in the stimulus package included money to assist needy people to keep making their COBRA payments. That’s wonderful. If I was unable to pay COBRA or if the time ran out on it, I would have to go to Medicaid. How does that work in your area? Do you not have Medicaid?
    I believe society does respond to health/poverty issues. Where I live, there are free health clinics (doctors/nurses volunteer their time). Also where I live, the local health clinic provides dental services. I believe the response should be on a local level, and not on a national level. The federal government is inefficient.
    You and I are going to always disagree on that point.
    I believe there is greed everywhere – even in government.
    My basic point was that President Obama has put major changes in the health care system in the budget/stimulus package. The major discussion regarding those bills has only been about the cost & the economic problems. The discussion has not fully addressed the health care issues included in the bill. It has not given me, an individual citizen adequate representation through my congressman and senators to express my concerns. He is pushing these changes through as a response to the economic problems.
    Also where I live, I’ve never heard of a person critically ill being turned away from treatment. A tooth abcess sounds like a urgent matter – there’s usually a lot a pain with that. I don’t understand why no one assisted that person in need. My direct experience is doctors/hospitals/long term care facilities at times taking financial loss to provide treatment they see necessary. I’ve seen social workers working like crazy to provide the best services possible to financially needy people. I’ve also seen our current nationalized health care (medicare/VA/military health care system/medicaid) fail people. Therefore, I have no confidence that I or my family will receive good health care if the government takes charge.
    I’m glad in this last post that you’re looking for middle ground. I too had thought of some type of subsidy – like with catastrophic events, the government might could kick in with more support than is now given once the full limit of that person’s insurance has been met. I’ve liked the idea before of small businesses grouping themselves together to provide insurance. As a group, they could have an equal total employee pool as a large company would, and the employees could receive similar benefits. The total number on one insurance policy does matter. By having an adequate number of healthy people who require decrease benefits gives the insurance company more flexibility to help those who are ill. I wonder how many healthy people don’t carry insurance?
    BTW – It also helps for the stock market to be doing well (Don’t insurance companies invest their premiums to earn more money?). However, President Obama says the stock market is just a “tracker poll”. LOL
    Unfortunately for a person with my views, President Obama is not looking for middle ground. He wants nationalized health care and he is using the economic difficulty we’re in to push it through. He’s also putting us into so much debt, I don’t see how we will ever pay our way out of it.

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  3. questions says:

    silverslipper,
    Given that you KNOW the healthcare system inside and out, you have to know that if you lose your job and can’t find a substitute with benefits, you’re in trouble. Pre-existing conditions are NOT insurable on the open market, small employers can’t afford the coverage for ill employees and so, often, these people are gently removed from employment.
    The disparities in health care across regions is an issue that really needs to be addressed. In some states, the rate of c-sections is way way higher than it is in other states. C-sections are expensive, risky, and often unnecessary. If we don’t know when they are called for and when not, then we really are wasting money, endangering patients and being stupid. If statistics can tell us when we should be doing what, then maybe it’s okay not to trust the doctors — who, after all, are not omniscient, omnipotent, or omni-anything else.
    And remember, it’s not ONE doctor or ONE nurse making these decisions. It’ll be a large number of practitioners and medical statisticians and patients on a board or several boards who work to figure things out. There won’t likely be only ONE way to do anything. If you’re allergic to penicillin, they’re not going to make you take penicillin. If you want a c-section so that you can get the baby out on Monday because you have a meeting on Tuesday, pay for it yourself, and good luck getting to the meeting with the stitches and pain killers.
    Further, your health insurance company can just as easily refuse you treatment. If you have an autoimmune disease, they may just say no to the latest anti-TNF drug. If you have heart problems, they can simply refuse to pay for some new surgery or drug that would make a difference. Insurance companies are not angelic; in fact, I tend to think that they are a whole lot more corrupt than a corrupt government could be simply because insurance companies make all of their money by sucking up premiums, investing in the stock market, and not making payouts.
    Perhaps not-for-profit subsidized insurance with a variety of individual companies would be a middle ground. There are issues with multiple payers, there are issues with denial of reasonable treatment, there are issues with American political culture and all of this needs to be blended into some kind of system that is less wasteful, less prone to spending huge amounts of money on advertising, lobbying, bonuses and salaries, unnecessary drugs for non-existent diseases, huge amounts of money in the last two or three days of life and the like. There are small things like not automatically writing prescriptions for brand name drugs that have generic equivalents (check out Duac creme for acne — it’s a generic antibiotic coupled with benzoyl peroxide — 90 bucks for the tube, a whole lot less if you buy the antibiotic separately and a bottle of Oxy 10….) We have small and large bad medical habits, and only some of us are well served, and those who are well served right now risk not being well served in the future. Check out today’s unemployment numbers and tell me how safe your insurance is. I’m feeling a little nervous lately.
    And I am not cynical towards doctors and health care. Rather, I know that people die when they can’t afford to see a doctor to find out that they have a heart defect, that their blood pressure is about to cause their head to explode, that the lump really is cancer…. Our system as it is excludes huge numbers of people who are really sick, many people who could do with having a broken bone properly set or a tooth pulled before the infection spreads to the brain and kills (recent news story). We’re all at risk of disease and we can actually do something about this as a society. That’s the point of society anyway, isn’t it?

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  4. silverslipper says:

    Questions:
    I’m sorry you or persons you know have had difficult struggles with health care issues. I know it’s not fun. I have witnessed persons struggling with really difficult circumstances. I’m sorry those experiences have made you very cynical to doctors/health care.
    I’m not going to try to rebut everything you’ve said. We will just have to agree to disagree. I guess I have to tell you that I’ve had a chronic disease since I was 18, and I definitely know the limitations of health care, and the need to be employed. I’ve remained employed at times just to keep my insurance. You’re right that with certain illnesses it would be difficult to stay employed, and therefore I would lose my insurance. Where I live, I would then have to go to Medicaid. I’m not sure how that works were you are.
    I do want to show I’m correct about someone in Washington DC determining best practices. In the 09-10 budget President Obama proposes it says:
    “Across our Nation, health care costs vary substantially, yet the higher-cost areas do not generate better health outcomes than the lower-cost areas. Even among our Nation’s leading medical centers, costs vary significantly—with costs at some centers twice as high as others—but the higher-cost centers do not achieve higher quality than the lower-cost centers. Some researchers believe that health care costs could be reduced by a stunning 30 percent—or about $700 billion year—without harming quality if we moved as a Nation toward the proven and successful practices adopted by the lower-cost areas and hospitals.”
    I think this is on page 25. Then on page 26 it says:
    “Medicine is changing so rapidly it is almost impossible for any individual physician to keep abreast of all the latest research studies. Without the most recent information on effective treatments, it is increasingly more difficult for a doctor to give a patient the type of individualized treatment he or she deserves. Each month, for instance, nearly 500 articles are published on breast cancer alone. Despite this profusion of research, there are often gaps especially an absence of data that compares
    how well different diagnostic tests and treatments
    work for the very same conditions and diseases.”
    And then on page 70:
    “Building on the unprecedented $1.1 billion included in the recovery Act for comparative
    effectiveness research, the Administration
    will continue efforts to produce state-of-the-science information on what medical treatments
    work best for a given condition. When coupled
    with electronic health records, these findings can
    form the basis for clinical decision support tools—distilling all available evidence on the outcomes of different treatment options into user-friendly pop-up alerts for physicians at the point of care. These findings can thereby enhance medical decision-making by patients and their physicians.”
    And my point is that eventually it will say what will be paid for based on someone in Washington’s comparing different research studies. Again, if the group of doctors I work with (all brilliant), can’t come to a complete agreement on which research proves a certain method best, how can the government?
    Again also, my original point was that President Obama is using this current “crisis” (that’s a word he repeats soooooo often) to enact these changes. I would argue that with our system of Representation, this is precisely NOT the time to make drastic changes to our system. As a citizen, I should have the ability to make concerns known to my representative, but with things rushed through ‘to save the economy’, full discussion is not allowed.

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  5. Belle says:

    As advised upthread, perhaps a cup of herbal tea and some yoga to calm down?
    The European doctors did not try to experiment on/unnecessarily put me in danger because they were European, but because they felt compelled to do so by the demands of a socialized system. I had more; they didn’t have enough; I was expendable — one person vs. the fees that could in theory help more than one — & the odds that I’d really be hurt were low. In the case of the check-in charge, they likely concluded that it was a win-win – I wasn’t put in danger; they got money they needed. Though not nearly as much as they planned to get. I’ve never experienced anything approaching that type of behavior in the U.S. Nor do I know anyone who has, and you do not cite any comparable specifics either.
    Life is not all about luck. I take huge issue with the notion that every adult who is without something they want or need is simply unlucky. I’ve lost my job in the past & can hardly think of a person I know who never has, unless they’ve stayed in gov’t their whole career. Keeping or replacing their health care coverage is the #1 priority for most.
    For those working, saying “the employer doesn’t provide it” isn’t the end of the analysis. Buy it separately. Can’t afford that? What does that mean? Is it can’t afford it or won’t afford it? If it’s can’t, find another employer. “It’s not easy” isn’t the same as, it can’t be done. Wal-Mart, Starbucks & other employers requiring little education have excellent benefits. Tax them out of the profits they use to pay for that, not so much.
    Your conclusions appear based on theories & wishes – what you hope will happen. What you think should happen. I’ve been there & it will not turn out the way you hope it does. As noted above, Canadians currently come to the U.S. for care because they can’t wait for it in Canada.
    My experiences were in an industrialized country with less than one-third the population of the U.S. With a country our size, the system being proposed would have to decide to kill people. Maybe it would’ve been the same ones that you lament; maybe it will be a different set, but people who can live today will instead die. We don’t get a pass for having stated good intentions when they produce bad results.

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  6. questions says:

    “I can’t believe you would feel comfortable with one person in Washington DC deciding for the whole country what is a best medical practice.”
    Is there anything in anyone’s health care plan that even remotely resembles this proposal? I doubt it.
    “Best practices” is a jargony attempt to deal with the fact that there are vast REGIONAL discrepancies in how medical care is decided. The most likely explanation is that people go to the same med schools together, are taught by the same group of profs and therefore do things the same way. You get more surgery in some parts of the country, more antibiotics in other parts, fewer interventions in other parts. I kind of doubt that there’s sufficient evolutionary change by region in this country to justify the variations in treatment. So, maybe the thing to do is use some statistical analysis and figure out just how much of what treatment really makes sense. If patients on some insanely expensive chemo drug live about 5 minutes longer than patients on a cheaper drug, maybe the insanely expensive one isn’t really justified.
    And Belle,
    if you’ve never had a USA AMERICAN LEGAL CITIZEN doctor who’s made a mistake or pushed a diagnosis code the wrong way or given in to the urge to commit fraud, congratulations!
    I personally know a number of perfectly legal citizens– AMERICANS OF THE USA VARIETY — who don’t have health insurance, who suffer and who die. It’s a nasty business.
    Ever know anyone who used a midwife because it’s cheaper?

    Reply

  7. questions says:

    silverslipper
    Preamble — BCBS doesn’t want more SICK subscribers, nor does Aetna. The fact is that when insurance is structured as a profit-making venture, the companies’ and shareholders’ good is best served by denying care, while the patients’ good is best served by the most expensive care. There’s a profound conflict of interest here that must be recognized.
    1 and 3. Copycat drugs, baldness drugs, and pretty likely numerous drugs that treat seemingly brand new conditions (have you noticed how suddenly everyone is either ADD/ADHD, depressed, or menopausal and therefore in need of a drug; look up osteopenia and osteoporosis and see what the connection is between bone loss and breakage — it’s far more distant a connection than one would have thought). Cholesteral and heart disease also seem to have a more distant relationship than one would think given the number of people on cholesteral-lowering drugs. Direct-to-consumer advertising encourages drug companies to make up drugs in order to sell them. The profit motive alone, and not the health of a human being, is the purpose. This entire system needs to be brought under control. There’s far more marketing than you seem to realize.
    4. The experiment is that drugs are approved and marketed long long before their safety and efficacy are really established. Think back to the pain relievers that cause strokes, think about HRT (which honestly was an experiment conducted on a huge percentage of post-menopausal women), and think about how little we really know about the relationship between anti-depressants and suicidal ideation. It would seem to be a little stronger than the drug companies wish to admit.
    4. The seminars your doctors go to are paid for by drug companies selling the very drugs the doctors are “learning” about.
    4. And let’s face it, doctors are currently limited by insurance companies who use RNs staffing phones. Drugs and treatments are already denied, even if you’re unaware of this fact. Perhaps you’ve only had very standard health issues like colds and the occasional bout of strep. If you need something a little more exotic, like, say, a $50,000 round of chemo, you might not get it.
    6. I am aware of numerous people who have not received medical care because of lack of insurance. Many of them are dead now.
    7. Your PPO limits the doctors you can see and get full coverage. HMOs limit more. Nationalized health care would mean that all doctors are in the plan. It’s insurance companies that impose limits. And my guess is that there will at the very least be a second tier of insurance available for those wealthy enough to pay pay pay. (Public schools didn’t shutter private schools, you just pay for both if you decide to send your kids to private schools. But the public schools are still there should you lose your job and no longer have 30,000 dollars to shell out for tuition.)
    8. I’m glad that you can afford the thousands of dollars a year for wonderful health insurance. I hope you never lose your job, or your ability to pay. I hope your insurance company doesn’t dump you, or jack up your premiums to unmanageable rates. I hope your employer doesn’t just drop coverage or force everyone into high deductible nothing-covered insurance. You’re clearly on one of the islands of excellence in the sea of mediocrity (to quote Tom Daschle). Congratulations. Not everyone is there with you.
    But as long as there’s competition, I’m sure someone will want to pick up every single cancer patient, heart disease patient, autoimmune patient, pregnant woman, and the like…. (Not likely.)

    Reply

  8. silverslipper says:

    Questions:
    I know we will just have to agree to disagree. I know personally – in many examples that would too boring to you to give – that health insurance is difficult to manage. I believe competition is the best answer. If we are all under one system, there will be no reason for the government to change it’s practices. As it is now, at least BCBS may have to change it’s standards if Aetna is getting more subscribers.
    1. I really don’t understand your argument about drugs being created for marketing issues. As far as I know all drugs treat a medical condition. I’m also not sure how formularies are corrupt. I would assume an insurance company would want the most cost effective med available to treat a condition. Corruption means to me that a company would put a certain drug on its list because of perks from a drug company. But in the end, why would it do that if the drug is too expensive? I guess they might would form a partnership. That is, if the overall package is reasonable, they might would accept a higher price drug on the list. Do you consider that corruption?
    3. I don’t understand how your answer to what I said applies. I’m saying that the fact pharmacies can make profits from new drugs, they are motivated to find more drugs. Medical supply companies want to find better treatment options – better dressings, better gels, better machines, etc… If it is a nationalized system, that motivation will decrease. Yes, all of us need to prepare for life changing events. We can’t depend on our insurance to handle anything that might happen to us.
    4. I don’t understand how I could be involved in an experiment without my knowledge/consent. Hormone replacement therapy has been abandoned hasn’t it – or doctor’s may use in some cases with caution? Your argument about prostate cancer proves my point. My health care should be decided between me and my doctor. No one else. I said it would be a doctor/nurse in Washington DC, but I was just giving the government the benefit of the doubt. The budget summary doesn’t actually say who it will be. It just says all the medical research will be reviewed, and the best practices will be available as a pop up screen to my physician. It says in that summary “500 research articles” are printed on cancer (I think it says each year). It suggests that doctors can’t keep up with all of that. Yet, we are to believe that our government can keep up with it and adjust the best practice formulary quickly? When does our government do anything quickly? It’s also derogatory to my physicians. I believe my physicians do keep up with the most recent research. They go to seminars, they read, they meet with other physicians, etc.. They are the ones with skin in the game, and you can believe they want to provide the best care possible to me. I doubt the persons in Washington reading the research articles will care very much about my individual outcome. They will just be watching the statistics. Oh well…
    5. Yes, I did know there is a cap on treatment payments. No, I didn’t keep up with John Edwards’ poster child for health care problems.
    6. I’m not aware of people who do not receive medical treatment when needed. Now if your focus is on preventative care, yes… people without insurance probably don’t get preventative care.
    7. I didn’t say health care cut. I said health care options cut. In other words, I’ll have to see a specific doctor, no matter how good he/she is or how busy she is. If an drug/treatment is not paid for, I will not have an option. I might could pay out of pocket. But not for long. Eventually, those options will no longer be produced because there is no profit (I know that terrible profit issue).
    I really don’t like to be told what doctor to go to. I pay extra for my health insurance (a PPO), rather than to accept an HMO plan. It is the HMO plans that are more along the line of what you are describing. I’m probably not planning as well as I should for my health care – that’s a valid point you make. We should all plan for the worst case scenario – stroke at 47, car accident, etc… I’m actually thinking this year to buy an umbrella insurance plan that will be another backup in case of the worst case scenario.
    The reason we just have to agree to disagree is that I don’t see government as a solution – and it seems you do. I can’t believe you would feel comfortable with one person in Washington DC deciding for the whole country what is a best medical practice. I work in a hospital with several different physicians. They all read and discuss the same research articles, and they can all come to different conclusions as to the best medical practice. Also each patient has different responses to certain medicines, etc.. How can the government anticipate all of those variables? I just don’t see how the government can be an efficient manager of health care.

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  9. Belle says:

    Excellent analysis, silver slipper. A lot more realistic, and thus persuasive, than “game theory.”
    While living in a socialized European country, I was covered by American insurance. Three times, the European doctors tried to check me into the hosptial for unnecessary, general anesthesia operations, in order to overcharge my insurance to make up their shortfalls. (One example: I had a small abscess that I treated & resolved via a warm compress.) One time, they checked me in when I believed I was at the hospital for a test that I did not end up having. All I got was a cup of water. They then refused to refund the $400 charge for my non-stay.
    In contrast, the local citizens, those with the nationalized “care,” were giving birth in a circle of 8 women. They were not attended by a doctor, but by a midwife.
    With 300 million Americans under a national system – a larger number by several times than the populace of Canada or any European nation – the DC panel will have to ration care. There will be a shortage of doctors, because the investment in the education will not yield an adequate rate of return. It will not be cost-efficient to give full care to retirees who are a drain on the system. Your grandmother will be far more likely to get an overdose of morphine. Imagine the burning of Atlanta scene in “Gone with the Wind.”
    Also, when I hear that we have 40+ million uninsured, I must ask, how many of those people are illegal aliens? I must say, as things deteriorate here, they might pack up & go back where they came from.

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  10. questions says:

    Silver Slipper,
    On #1 — Approved meds — private insurance does the same thing. The list is a “formulary” and sometimes it does good things and often is corrupt. If the formularies could be written to exclude drugs that don’t work or are unnecessary or have been created in response to marketing issues rather than medical issues, it would be fine to exclude them.
    On #3, Though you may not plan to have a stroke at age 47, you might. Strokes are pricey to deal with. Pay or die? The real issue is that we plan badly for things that aren’t fun. Strokes, car accidents, severed limbs, cancer and the like aren’t fun but they do happen. And they cost a lot of money to deal with. Pay up.
    #4. Dr/nurse in DC? Right now it’s a nurse on the other end of a phone call making these very same decisions…. Best practices– You want to be part of BigPharma’s experiments without consent? Have you followed the history of hormone replacement therapy or prostate cancer treatment? Seems like the treatment is often way way worse than the “disease”. HRT causes so many problems that it went from standard to treat it to standard to make women cope. Prostate cancer is often slow growing and ignorable and expensive and risky to treat. It’s not at all straight forward. Maybe we should give the fictional Docs-in-DC a chance. They might do better than what we have now.
    #5. Your private health insurance ALREADY does cost/benefit analyses for treatments. Remember Nataline Sarkysian — John Edwards’s poster-child for health care problems? Did you know that most policies come with lifetime maximums that are EASILY used up by conditions like autism? We are all in a cost system already.
    #6 The Canada thing is anecdotal, not likely entirely accurate, would be worth some research to see just how many people cross into the US for 50 or 100,000 dollar procedures. Are any of these crossings really emergencies? Or is it just one or two insanely rich idiots who decide that they’ll get their surgery done NOW even if a doctor days waiting a few weeks is fine? And did you know that people in the US sometimes NEVER get the medical care they need just because it’s too expensive? No question of going anywhere. And some Americans are now traveling to other low wage countries in what’s called “medical tourism”. I’ve read one or two articles about this. So, maybe Canada isn’t medical paradise, but the US is medical hell for a lot of people.
    #7. SOME people’s health care might get cut. Lots of people will get health care for the first time. And if the administration can reign in Big Pharma and insurance companies, probably we’ll all do better.
    Finally, it’s really important to remember that the system sort of works for some people (until you get sick and lose your job and insurance), and there are some amazing medical miracles that are unevenly distributed across the population. But for all the money we toss in to the mix, we don’t get longevity or even treatments that match our diseases. We don’t have it right and we need to work on finding better ways to distribute health care.

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  11. silverslipper says:

    Questions:
    The issues you raise are legitimate concerns. I just don’t see nationalized health care as the solution.
    1. Have you talked to people on Medicare or VA benefits? I have – often. It’s not so good. A person on VA benefits can’t get the medicines he/she actually NEEDS. They can get what is on the list of approved meds. But if a doctor really wants the patient to take another medicine not on the list, well – tough luck. Also, the person on VA benefits (at least the ones I worked with) gets his/her medicines in the mail. Therefore if a change is made in the medicines, there is the delay of mail delivery before the adjustment can actually. One person I knew had a husband who had Alzheimer’s and who was becoming more and more aggressive at home. The wife was frightened, but because of VA red tape, she was going to have to wait 2 weeks to a month to get him placed in a VA long term facility.
    Persons on Medicare is not much better. You are given a limited amount of days to be in a hospital for a certain diagnosis (and the new budget from Obama is trying to tighten those – and make it punitive to doctors/hospitals for readmissions). After that set limit of days, Medicare will allow a person to go to a skilled nursing facility but only pays 100% for 20 days. After the 20 days if the person still needs skilled nursing and not able to go home, the family has to pay 20% of the costs. That will last for the next 80 days. But if a person is unfortunate enough to still need 24 hour nursing care, well sorry – but Medicare has a 100 day limit! No more payment is given. The person can then apply for Medicaid, but has to liquidate all of their assets and use those to pay medical expenses, then have Medicaid pay their expenses.
    It’s no fun to see people suffer in those circumstances.
    2. That’s how we all will be once we are on a nationalized system. One could still lose all of their wealth with an illness – but your right not go bankrupt. I guess and that point, the state would take over.
    3. Though you may not want profit to be part of the health care system, without it all of our health care options will decrease.
    4. I really don’t want a doctor/nurse up in Washington DC deciding what the best treatment is for everyone. That is what the budget says. It says that all medical research will be evaluated, and SOMEONE in the US department will decide best clinical practices. Then on the individual doctor’s screen, when he/she is reviewing my health care condition, pop up screens will appear to tell my doctor what the best clinical practice is. I’m sure eventually it will say – these are the best practices, and these are the only choices you have that will be paid for. I’m sorry, but each person is different, and different methods work for different patients.
    5. I’m sure however that when the government nationalizes health care, it will say that certain treatment options are too expensive (or actually the wording will be – ‘not cost effective’). It already does that with Medicaid/Medicare and VA recipients. A person would probably have the option to pay completely out of pocket (at least hopefully)for the health care he/she chooses. But eventually, it will not benefit a company to continue making certain health care items because they won’t have that profit you’re talking about. So eventually, people will not be able to even buy things out of pocket, because it will not be made by anyone. Therefore, our health care standard will decline.
    6. I don’t know, but have you heard of rich people from Canada crossing the border to have procedures done here? The reason is because there are long waiting lines for procedures & I don’t know, but I think you can’t wait but so long for a heart bypass procedure! Again going back to military insurance. When one is younger and retired from the military, they have a better insurance plan from the military, but they still can only see certain doctors. Someone I know has problems with high blood pressure. Well, if things get out of whack, she still has to wait at least 1-2 weeks (or longer) before she can get an appointment. Her only choice to get care immediately would be ER (she’s never done that), or pay out of pocket to see a doctor who’s not on her list.
    7. So I believe when President Obama says his program will save money. I agree that stream lining information would probably help, and I agree that if there is Medicare fraud, that should be stopped. But overall, I see the savings as – all Americans get on the same system, and then our health care options get cut.
    Not so good.

    Reply

  12. questions says:

    silverslipper,
    When you say “our health care standards will decline” what exactly do you mean? For many people the following problems already exist: can’t afford insurance, can get to doctor but not pay for prescriptions, can get to doctor, pay for prescriptions and then have insurance canceled or premiums jacked up, can’t get any insurance at all, have such high deductibles and out of pocket costs that they might as well not have insurance, have prescription coverage but NOT for the drugs they actually need, end up without knowing it having, say, an anaesthesiologist who is not in their insurance plan so even if they have the right hospital and surgeon, they pay huge amounts of money for the privilege of being unconscious during surgery…. So again I would ask, what “standards”?
    Certainly some of us have great health insurance, can find doctors and get in to see them, but plenty of people are a divorce, job loss, illness away from doing without. We need to see ourselves as vulnerable to loss of insurance and health care when we most need it to see past the nonsense about “standards of care”.
    Try working and making payments, getting cancer, losing your job during chemo, and losing your health insurance. Think you’ll manage? To borrow a phrase, you’ll never be insured again in this town.
    Health care is a huge and unwieldy part of the economy, is behind large numbers of personal bankruptcies, is a major headache for employers, causes vast amounts of anxiety and suffering. It’s precisely the sort of thing that is best dealt with by all together and not through the profit motive.

    Reply

  13. cfsteak says:

    This post, quoted as from The W Note, was a topic for a segment on Rush Limbaugh this afternoon, last hour of the show, He used it to show cracks starting in the Democratic Party
    Only the 3rd time I’ve listened to his show and am a regular reader of The Note
    I checked in here tonight to see if the nuts were came here
    PS I think Rush is back on the pill’s
    Steve
    Thanks for the international views

    Reply

  14. silverslipper says:

    I’m not rich, and I don’t know any of those liberal billionaire/millionaires, but I really question President Obama’s economic plans. It doesn’t make sense to me to spend, spend, spend. For my personal life (and probably for everyone else’s), if I overspend, I find myself looking for an extra day of work to pay off the money I spent. With Obama’s plan, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way to pay for what he’s spending. I think he’s pretty clever with his words. He says he will be able to pay down half of “the existing deficit” which I guess is about 1.5-1.8 trillion right now. He doesn’t say he will cut the total deficit in half. Also, he plans to raise taxes in a recession. His treasury secretary says that makes sense because it will happen in 2011 when the economy will be expected to be doing better. The problem is though that the expert opinion I’ve read says that the ill effects of all this spending will hurt us in the long run. So I’m questioning does ‘long run’ mean by 2011? I don’t know if these are the concerns of the liberal rich. I wish Mr. Clemmons had details of their exact concerns.
    I’m very disappointed about President Obama’s plans for healthcare. I’m very disappointed about his statement about Wall Street (that it’s ‘like a tracking poll’ – ‘No, Mr. President, the decrease in Wall Street represents LOST MONEY which affects all of us), and about his lack of concern for banks. Before he was sworn in as President, Obama requested that the $350,000,000 TARP funds be made available to him. Yet still to this day he has not put very many of those funds to use for the banks.
    I guess I kind of agree with Sam Vaughm. I believe Obama does want the economy to improve but I think right now he’s using the “crisis” for as much political gain as possible. He says that the health care reform for example, is to improve our long term economy. Once nationalized health care is put into place, our health care standards will decline.

    Reply

  15. Dallas says:

    question,
    Don’t get me wrong. There is a role for government, however
    the roles of big government (federalism), big business
    (monopolies, oligarchies, utilities) and big labor should be
    restrained. While one could make a strong argument for a
    federal energy policy (national security) — there is no logical
    argument for the national government to incentivize “weather-
    stripping” and the like.
    Citizens can only “vote out (or in)” two of 100 Senators while
    they can vote out (or in) all members of a city council or school
    board. Most our economic problems stem from organizations
    too big to worry about individual concerns — a government too
    far removed from the populous and businesses with too few
    competitors and too many shareholders.
    I, like you, appreciate the ability to “throw the bums out” — but,
    I am unable to vote for most of the bums.

    Reply

  16. questions says:

    Oh, and Dallas, “the compensation paid to executives” finds its cause in a weird kind of mutualism between boards of directors who set the payout schemes and the executives themselves who sit on other boards and set the pay for their directors. I think this is called “corruption” when it happens in the public sphere. There’s no incentive system for anyone in paying people hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The money is meaningless at that point and the dollar amount signifies something about competition between firms and mutual backscratching and ignoring one’s shareholders. 20 million, 30 million — it can’t affect your quality of life. I’m willing to bet that some biologist somewhere could have a field day with doing a Darwinian analysis of executive salaries!

    Reply

  17. questions says:

    Taxes are not voluntary, certainly. And taxes will pay for weatherization. And weatherization will help at least marginally with global climate change, energy use and workforce participation, each of which is a good for all of us but a burden on some of us and so doesn’t happen without some pressure. I have no problem with this.
    You have to remember that corporations force us to do things as well, and we have no democratic voice in controlling corporate behavior. The only way to avoid corporate control over one’s life is to cease to have a life. Should one choose to keep one’s life, one is stuck with supporting multi-million dollar bonuses simply by taking prescription meds, plugging the computer in to the wall, eating or drinking, racing to the emergency room…. We don’t escape from coercion simply by Norquisting the government; rather we substitute one kind of coercion for another. Personally, I’d rather be able to vote the bums out as needed.
    Living in a civil society demands the loss of natural freedom. This point shows up in EVERY social contract theorist who has ever written. We get a whole lot out of giving up natural freedom — property rights, guaranteed right to life, sociality and education — really nice stuff comes from paying some taxes. I can’t imagine EVER having enough money to fund my very own: police force, hospital, cancer research institute, university system, education in language, math, science, history, for my kids, an airline and air traffic control system, food inspection, nursing home, funeral system, grave tending and the like. Really, no one does this alone and we need to work together. Commerce covers a bunch of this, but commerce has failures, markets can’t always coordinate and markets refuse to deal with dilemma of the commons/public non-excludable goods issues, and things like orphan drugs — it’s not profitable and so it doesn’t happen. Markets need external command systems to help them function.
    So go get yourself some new windows, Dallas, and enjoy the 28% discount on the portion that isn’t excluded from the deduction. It’s a good deal and I’ll be able to drive an extra few guilt-free miles if you can lower your A/C bill! Thanks!

    Reply

  18. Dallas says:

    questions,
    You are correct to state that citizens are not being “ordered” to
    weatherize homes, however, how do you suppose the incentives
    are funded? Is this voluntary as well?

    Reply

  19. questions says:

    Sam Vaughan,
    Yikes! Have a cup of herbal tea and look out the window for a few minutes. Breathe. Do some yoga. And think about the following: deregulation of capital markets and sharply reduced tax rates have together encouraged the creation of massive pools of capital. The pools are so large that no one needs all that money to survive, and so the purpose of money ends up altering from a tool to help us survive, exchange, and save w/o spoilage loss to an impetus for speculative/sexual thrill. From Harvard’s endowment, which doesn’t do a lot for keeping tuition and fees below about 50 thousand now to multi-million dollar annual bonuses for executives, these pools of money distort social preferences away from activities that support life, health, enjoyment and safety towards activities that promote the insane desires of very few people on the planet at the cost of the lives of very many on the planet.
    The insane desires of the few have now collapsed on themselves and near as I can tell, what Obama is REALLY trying to do is help capitalism save itself. The idea that utterly selfish behavior on the part of us all somehow magically creates social good has failed. Game theory insights show us that without good communication and social cooperation, the selfish good we pursue fails to be attained. We have to coordinate our actions in numerous ways; we have to have a public order of some sort. It’s not socialism until there are lots of 5 year plans running around and the local worker council is telling you that your tomato crop will be picked up on February 7, even though you don’t plant tomatoes til May and they’re not edible til August. Near as I can tell, Obama’s budget and stimulus plans have nothing to say about tomatoes. They offer incentives to weatherize homes, but don’t ORDER us to do so. Very different intent here.
    So take it easy. We have to coordinate a wide range of values and distributions in order to avoid having the system collapse under its own weight. Read some behavioral econ lit and maybe some game theory lit and breathe. Ahhh.

    Reply

  20. Sam Vaughn` says:

    Obama has metamorphosed back to his real intent. He doesn’t care nor understand the stock market, it’s just a “tracking poll”, or how their actions are destroying capitilism and building socialism. Some say he’s a hyporcrite at best ignorant of his actions. I think he’s smart and knows very well what he’s doing, the economy is irrelevant, it’s all about power and destroying those in his way. I was hoping otherwise, but the absurdity of the monstrous stimulus plan is hypocritical beyond mere words. Thing his if he was honest about his intent to transform and re-engineer society he’d never win. What’s shocking is that the MSM is asleep at the wheel, or worse just a propaganda arm of the Democratic party.
    Regards from a Democrat the party left behind.

    Reply

  21. Dallas.. says:

    richwwk,
    Delusion. One person’s delusion is another’s hope. Was
    Christopher Columbus delusional? Thomas Edison? Martin
    Luther King?
    The world is experiencing a crisis of confidence, of hope. As a
    result total world productivity will continue to wane as
    individuals and competitive businesses find less utility in the
    risk-taking necessary to drive our economies and more utility in
    seeking safety.
    We thought our governments protected our free markets by
    regulating the large monopolies. Instead government and
    monopolies conspired and still conspire to protect each other.
    We are no longer encouraging companies to produce goods and
    services we are rewarding institutions that manipulate
    economies for their own ends.
    “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But, I am delusional
    because I continue to hope.

    Reply

  22. erichwwk says:

    Dallas:
    Interesting. Good luck w/lottery systems as a means of creating wealth. Instant gratification w/o effort.
    You see delusion as the solution. I see delusion as the problem. And the reason I am pessimistic of our finding a solution before we grovel ala USSR in the 90’s or the US in the 30’s.
    So many do seem unable to distinguish between real wealth and bookkeeping wealth, between obtaining money by sleight of hand, and creating wealth by working harder or smarter.
    This is the sort of nonsense one sees when “jobs created” rather than “usable output” is used as the metric by which to measure economic performance. It is what allows equity fund managers to withdraw funds on short run, rather than long run, performance, or what is the same thing, on delusionary, rather than real, performance . Very Sad.
    One of the few criticisms I have of Bernanke, whom I generally admire, was his inability to recognize that the spike in housing prices was merely financial,and not real. Too many number crunchers, bean counters, get so absorbed in the trees they can’t see the forest. eg see his 2005 FRB speech here:
    http://tinyurl.com/4y7s3),
    “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars”

    Reply

  23. Dallas says:

    erichwwk,
    Certainly, if an executive was only compensated for their
    contribution to the firm “20 times average earnings is the
    maximum that can be justified by “working harder and smarter”,
    and the CEO’s of the top 50 hedge funds withdrawn (on average)
    19,000 times average earnings as their personal compensation
    entitlement, what could be clearer that we have an economy
    based NOT on each person receiving his or her fair share of what
    has been jointly produced, but by distribution of output by
    dishonest customs of political and legal favoritism.”
    However, I would suggest that the compensation paid to
    executives is much more about increasing productivity of the
    masses than rewarding the executive. Not that I support
    lotteries, however, can you imagine how many fewer lottery
    tickets would be sold if the potential winnings were capped at
    $10,000? High executive pay — even extraordinarily so —
    motivates others to increase productivity for an “opportunity” to
    participate in the excess.

    Reply

  24. Robbins Mitchell says:

    Well,getting through to Rahm Emanuel at the White House is no biggie….I called his extension myself the other day and when he answered the phone “Chief of Staff”,I asked “Mr Emanuel?”…”Yes?” he replied…whereupon I asked him,”Who do I talk to about arranging to use the First Ho’s affirmative action pussy?”….he was dead silent even though I heard background noise…so I gave him the horselaugh and hung up….for those of you who care,his White House direct phone # is 202-456-6798

    Reply

  25. Susan says:

    Obama picked Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. That is the road we are going down, and it will not work out in the long run.
    In the short run, the stimulus bill may help me hang on to my job for a while longer.

    Reply

  26. John B says:

    Something to chew on …
    Fed Watch: When Does Faith in Financial Engineering Wane?
    http://tinyurl.com/cbq8pg

    Reply

  27. Chicagoan says:

    Robert M.— OK, so we do that. I still have $100 billion in toxic waste that I’m carrying on my books at $90 billion and which is actually worth $5 billion. Since you wrote contracts on it and you have a AAA credit rating, I can carry it at $90 billion and meet regulatory criteria for solvency. If we cancel those contracts I can’t.
    Of course this is all a scam and I of course agree that these instruments should have been made illegal last September at the latest and that nothing but catastrophe can come of more of them being issued. Still if the idea is on some basic level to avoid another Lehman I can understand why policymakers are so scared to poke the bomb with a stick and why they’d rather see if it fizzles out on its own.

    Reply

  28. Robert M says:

    Chicagoan
    If I sold you one contract or fifty I am on the hook. I want the court to void the deal in return for you returning the contracts and I return to you the premium. Then its over. There are no more contracts to hedge against w/ more margin. You break the cycle this way?
    These contacts are written by a specific firm for a specific bond and someone pbuys them. there is a record of it between the parties. In closing them out this way all you are doing is backtracking. Those records exist. It can be done.
    The way you do it is have every central bank and political authority that has a financial institution declare force majeure on the same day. It can be done in the name of national security to save the country(s). This has been done in the currency markets so why not in credit default swaps?
    Do you realize that everyday under the new bond facility that the FED guarantee’s for TALF(up to $90 billion) that more credit default swaps are issued? All that can come of this is the constant printing of money to hyperinflation.

    Reply

  29. DonS says:

    Bush, It becomes more apparent everyday that he was every bit the frat boy, failed at everything he touched, bailed out on everything that we thought he was. It seems like he took the Presidency about as seriously as he treated everything in life, not very much, except to personalize things in a way to aggrandize his ego in the most destructive ways possible.
    Just a job, doncha know. Now let’s retire to Houston for some barbeque and stupid ‘jokes’at the hardware store.
    I’m not willing to exonerate “Big Dog” for his tech bubble capitalist wannabe insticts — overcoming that dysfunctional family chasm that could never be filled — either. But he’s a piker compaed to Bush.
    Now we’ve got Obama who sees himself as a transforamtional figure but appears to be so damned nuanced about everything that it makes it look like the Mullens, Odiernos, Patreaus, Gaithers, and Summers are really running the show. Maybe he is acting like he wants to keep all that presidential secrecy and unitary power for a reason. Conflicted much? If Obama is in fact so in touch with the outrage of the American people he needs to walk the walk and visibly kick some butt. We know damn well the neo fascist RW populists will not hesitate to do so, and without near the equipment that Obama has going for him.

    Reply

  30. ... says:

    dan – 6:59pm.. schmidt is not an economics pro, although that isn’t necessarily what is needed here either.. that is all i am saying.. in a pleasant atmosphere we can sit back and enjoy listening to successful businessmen wax poetic on what needs to happen to fix things, but at this point in time the world needs to be told the financial world has been built of a ponzi type scheme… no amount of positive talk is going to change that.. a complete overhaul is necessary.. some folks, schmidt included seem naive enough to think this is just some temporary blip that is based on a lack of available credit or a lack of consumption.. this is something very different and schmidt ought to be bright enough to see it given how his company rode on the same coat tails of a market designed more like a ponzi scheme then a ‘free market’…

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    Above, I should have written:
    “That being said, I’m surprised that people are so quick to dump on Schmidt and complain about his credibility while at the same time recognizing his obligation to accentuate the positive.”

    Reply

  32. Dan Kervick says:

    I doubt there is any way to sooth markets. Vast quantities of wealth have been lost, and prior estimates of wealth are being revealed to be illusory. That’s a fact, and the markets are reflecting that fact. The problem is that so far investors don’t see the bottom.
    That being said, I’m surprised that people are so quick to dump on Schmidt and complain about his credibility while at the same time recognize. What do you expect high profile business leaders to do? Talk about the falling sky or get out there and sell the US economy?
    By the way, can there any longer be any doubt that George W. Bush was the worst US president. The foreign policy debacles alone should have been enough. Katrina should have sunk it. But he also presided over the Ponzification and wrecking of the mighty US economy. And he trashed the US constitution. He’s a foreign policy Johnson plus a double Hoover – Herbert and J. Edgar – thrown in for laughs.
    And oh yeah, 9/11 happened on his watch. What a god damn freak show his administration was.

    Reply

  33. DonS says:

    We can argue all day about the origin of the problems, and whether there is or is not a way to rescue some institutions. But the verdict of the markets, in the meantime, seems to be that there is not much of value out there anywhere, except maybe cash and who knows for how long. So wouldn’t the logical course be to write everything down to its virtually null value anyway, nationalize and resell what can be made stable to responsibile parties. As to the manpower need to do the valuations/writedowns, what are the geniuses at the various failing institutions doing anyway. Put the burden on them to show why they should not be written down to zero. And fire Gaither and Summers if they cant get behind the concept.
    I recognize I’m speakng in great generalities, because I don’t have the knowledge or language. But foks with a whole lot of knowledge and language who apparently have th president’s ear don’t seem to be recommending moves that have soothed either the markets or the people.

    Reply

  34. ... says:

    robert m – thanks.. i see it much the same way..
    chicagoan – i don’t believe robert m is saying that these contracts basically cancel each other out.. speaking of AIG as you say “an institutions that was writing these insurance contracts without hedging them adequately” – that is why the gov’t is funneling money into it.. lots more to funnel..
    perfect storm..

    Reply

  35. Chicagoan says:

    Robert M.— It has nothing to do with the sanctity of contracts. The problem is that just isn’t true, as you’re implying, that all these contracts basically cancel out. Why do you think the government is pouring so much money into AIG? Institutions were in some cases writing these insurance contracts without hedging them adequately, or in some cases at all.
    There are possible solutions, like the taxpayer honoring derivatives where the holder actually owns the underlying investment and writing the rest off for pennies. But sorting all of it out would probably entail full scale nationalization of all the biggest banks, and there’s no way the government has anything near the manpower to do that let alone do it while going through their entire derivatives books to discern which contracts need to be honored and which can be torn up.
    It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way to cleanly resolve the problem.

    Reply

  36. Robert M says:

    ….,
    The FED has been duplicitous and silent on these contracts. Sen Phil Gramm put an amendment into this bill, Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, essentially providing no regulation for them. Bernake(on FED), Geithner(NY FED president) and Greenspan(Chr FED) said nothing about them at the time(better time line source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/07/where-credit-due-timeline-mortgage-crisis
    Technically they are not even responsible for them.
    On top all of this was not possible without the repeal of Glass-Stegal Act which President Clinton and Robert Rubin(then Sec of Treasury) facilitated in 1999(remember the Clinton’s infamous statement about coming back as the bond market so as to have power)
    Chicagoan
    Look you need to step back and look at what you say regarding credit swap derivatives:
    Moreover, these instruments all that’s propping up the financial markets. Without the big banks having insurance out on their toxic assets, they would have to write those assets down to points where even the most forebearing or corrupt regulators couldn’t ignore their insolvency. At that point, much of the hundreds of billions or perhaps trillions of dollars of bank debt that foreign governments, sovereign wealth funds and like hold would evaporate.
    “Without the big banks having insurance out on their toxic assets, they would have to write those assets down”,WTF? They are holding the insurance on each other. They are already propping each other up. They are counting on each other to pay off themselves. For the reason that there is not one contract per bond but multiples only aggravates the situation.
    What is driving down the value of the companies and the bonds is no bank has enough money to pay off each other, i.e. the risk engendered in the contracts. These contracts require that margin be put up. Every time the value goes down more margin, more trouble.
    Look at it another way. Financial institutions are all wearing life preservers. The preservers instead of holding buoyancy material are filled w/ water absorbing material. So they are sinking holding on to one another. If you use force majeure to take them off by paying back the premiums over three to four years, the cost of the premiums compared to the indebtedness on the guarantee of interest alone, let alone face, is substantially smaller than the margin costs. The margin cost disappearing alone would reflate the balance sheet making the institutions more solid. If you do this as a co-ordinated world wide deal for every financial institution you will take an enormous strain off the system.
    Look at the numbers $66 trillion in face value. Let’s assume the interest rate is 5%/year($3.3 trillion) and every bond is covered 4 times. Who has $13.2 trillion to pay off the interest alone? The taxpayer and every other taxpayer in the world for their financial institutions share of issuance.
    IMO, what is preventing this resolution in some notion that contract law is so sacred these contracts will not be broken. This means that we as a people have to destroy our economy and country to uphold a contract. This is the equivalent of being Jewish and betting you can voluntarily go to and survive Bergen Belsen.
    It’s just plain and simple time to stop the insanity.

    Reply

  37. questions says:

    erichwwk,
    the unearned income issue is, I think, where we just fall right in to Locke’s notion of property. He starts with the whole thing about the apple I pick is mine — and that really resonates with us. You pick an apple and some bully comes along and grabs it right as you are about to take a bite — oooh, that makes me so mad — it’s the stuff of cartoon comedy and we can easily fill in the rest of the story board. For Locke, of course, it’s the end of the state of nature and the beginning of civil society that follows. And then, Locke continues the story of property by having the property holder take on the “grass my horse has bit” and whatever labor my servant has undertaken. So just like that, the work of others belongs to the owner/employer and voila, the class system is born. Locke adds in money in a couple of paragraphs because it’s a crime to take from the commons what can spoil. Can’t save those plums, but you can build up quite a stockpile of gold. And relate to that gold we do. Gold is to one’s soul just what that apple is, at least for Locke.
    Plenty of people have wondered about this kind of property system. Hegel and Marx seem to be two of the better critics all in all. But there’s a really deep affinity between a boy and his gold, and I think that CDOs and the rest of the alphabet soup that go along with the current crisis are just so many apples one feels one has picked.
    With this in the background, then, what I find utterly compelling about game theory readings (how sad I didn’t pursue this stuff when I had a chance…) is that despite how much better off we’d all be with more unions and fewer millionaires and no billionaires, we don’t seem to find it worthwhile to give up that apple. It’s completely contrary to one version of rationality (Kant/Rawls) and completely aligned with another (Locke).
    So while I like dating a portion of the crisis to PATCO (what a disaster that was for everything including air safety), I think the more fundamental issue is the apple-feeling. Reagan’s rhetoric resonated with the public. The resentment (I’ll stop with the alliteration!) he tapped into over race (oops!) and class is a sight to behold. Clinton’s ending welfare as we know it seems to have been the culmination of the process. But now we have right-to-work states, no union card check law, no or little data-collection focused on former welfare recipients so we don’t even know what’s going on with these people, the mess in New Orleans, school districts looking to shorten the school year about the time Arne Duncan is saying we should lengthen it…. We don’t feel connected to the public sphere architecturally (rich, I’m sure, can speak to this one) or in any other way. Mostly we feel resentment that some idiot who has a house he can’t afford might get bailed out while I, who DID EVERYTHING RIGHT, get nothing (nearly a direct quotation from a relative who buys in to the CRA-is-the-devil view of the world).
    Into this mess, Obama must plunge. I wish him the best in getting us all to be willing to donate apples to hungry people and feel grateful that there are official apple collection agencies so that we don’t have to bother, and so that when we’re hungry, we too can get some apples.

    Reply

  38. erichwwk says:

    .
    Rich, granted, what is fair is not immediately obvious, with so much unearned income embedded in current labor and capital. While an interesting and more complicated question (but one I am happy to address) that issue is not necessary to resolve the issue you and I raise. How much of the 19,000 times average earnings of hedge fund managers are you attributing to “capital”? Granted, much of “investment decisions” these days require capital and are made by computer code embedded in hardware (look at the trading volumes at the start of each day re the rest of the day on the NYSE) and is indeed better labeled “capital” but how much CEO compensation do you really think went into the rent/ capital payment of each CEO’s annual average of $588,000,000 in 2007? And how was that related to SUSTAINED value enhancement?
    And how much because of Keynes observation “When you owe a million, you have a problem, but when you owe a trillion, society has the problem”? They knew full well they could skim on the upside, and that the system MUST eventually crash, but it would be foolish, from a personal point of view, not to get your share while it lasted. It would crash regardless of whether or not you played the game; from a selfish point of view, not playing only meant not getting “your share”, and YOUR contribution to the crash was negligible. So the incentive was to play until it crashed. Not your problem when it crashed.
    “Capital”, is (especially when much of it is intellectual capital) essentially common property. THAT was how much of it was pre Reagan, when much was government sponsored. We invested heavily as a nation in R&D, in transportation, health care, education, digital languages, packet communication, GPS, internal guidance, were all developed on the taxpayer nickel. Today it is all privatized, an inefficient system, I would argue though I cede that most believe the jury is sill out on LR efficiency. (In the sense that MR>MC).
    See eg see the hotlink ‘erichwwk” to pick a current paper at random
    Fairness in the broader sense is what we had 1949 -1979, where all sectors grew roughly evenly. Union busting (starting with the air traffic controllers) made the labor/ management negotiation to share output ever more asymmetrical. Political power sided completely with labor after that, and management share grew relative to the “checker’s share”. Society no longer considered an educated workforce a public good, but a private responsibility. And from then on, more and more income was claimed by “management” re labor. Capital itself became more and more privatized (patenting food that had been in use for centuries, eg), and entry to the use of the “capital” denied. We moved more and more away from capitalism to corporatism and the distinction between communism and capitalism blurred until they were distinguishable today the two are distinguishable primarily by sound bite ideology. Thus income inequality grew exponentially from 1979 on as benefits were privatized and costs were socialized and the playing field became more and more “unfair”. I would strongly argue that we produce more with an educated workforce, by empowering the checker PUBLICLY.
    “First, most producers are employees of firms, not owners. Viewed from the vantage point of classical [economic] theory, they have no reason to maximize the profits of firms, except to the extent that they can be controlled by owners. Moreover, profit-making firms, nonprofit organizations, and bureaucratic organizations all have exactly the same problem of inducing their employees to work toward organizational goals. There is no reason, a priori, why it should be easier (or harder) to produce this motivation in organizations aimed at maximizing profits than in organizations with different goals. If it is true in an organizational economy that organizations motivated by profits will be more efficient than other organizations, additional postulates will have to be introduced to account for it.” —
    Hebert Simon Nobel Prize in Economics 1978
    http://tinyurl.com/ycp6tv
    Steve comments:
    “These guys have public interested proposals that I think are hugely important — and when they aren’t getting through — it’s a sign of a blind spot in the White House and probably a sign of Lawrence Summers tightly controlling what makes it in the docket to be considered. These should worry us.”
    It is indeed worrisome, and the major reason I am uncomfortable with Larry Summer acting as economic gatekeeper. His ego and riff with Joe Stiglitz is hardly a secret.
    And ….“Please don’t turn my commentary into a class warfare statement.”
    Don’t know what you mean here. If you mean don’t turn the “insider/outsider clash” into a class warfare statement, agreed. Not knowing who these “outsiders” are, one is hardly able to comment on any details you don’t reveal. You do mention bank recapitalization, where the in and out crowd have essentially opposite views, with Summers/Paulson wishing to save the country by saving bankers and existing shareholders, and Stiglitz et al seeing it is destructive to the economy to save bankers, and that it is the banking SYSTEM that warrants saving. BIG difference.
    Also while I agree Japan, Germany, China “could” help, that is essentially irrelevant. We need to fix what is under our control first. These countries have “helped” more than enough.
    But I certainly hope you don’t mean that the class warfare struggle is not central to Obama’s overall policy and strategy. That too is hardly secret. As E.J. Dione write in today’s’ (Monday,3-2) WP, “The central issue in American politics is now whether the country should reverse a three-decade-long trend of rising inequality in incomes and wealth.
    And re: “what makes it odd is that some of Obama’s biggest funders are some of the most dissatisfied.”
    Not odd to those familiar with Larry Summers ego. As Chicagoan writes: “Is anyone really surprised by this? Did anyone, for instance, not have Summers pegged as a Democratic Cheney?” and “what makes it all the more unnerving that they’re visibly playing the sort of turf games that Cheney made famous rather than putting country first, as it were.”
    In fairness to Obama and Summers, an even more direct Rahm quote in the NYorker article is :’Now, my view is that Krugman as an economist is not wrong. But in the art of the possible, of the deal, he IS wrong. He couldn’t get his legislation”.
    My response to Rahm is that I find it worrisome that you “earned” about $20B in less than three years, via the Paulson “dealmaker” technique. Now THAT is different than producing value, or even passing a S-Chip bill. The problem with passing a bill of the “possible” while ignoring Krugman’s bill of “what is efficient”, is that the cost of the possible is making the “efficient” less likely, especially something as important as addressing the long run costs of opting for a private insurance industry to administer the delivery system than the one that is much more efficient, a single payer system. What is being proposed is another short run, band aid, second-best solution, while marginally better than what we currently have, does nothing to confront inefficiencies and the incentive flaws leading to rising health care costs that require a correct framing of the problem, and a substantial improvement.

    Reply

  39. erichwwk says:

    .
    Rich, granted, what is fair is not immediately obvious, with so much unearned income embedded in current labor and capital. While an interesting and more complicated question (but one I am happy to address) that issue is not necessary to resolve the issue you and I raise. How much of the 19,000 times average earnings of hedge fund managers are you attributing to “capital”? Granted, much of “investment decisions” these days require capital and are made by computer code embedded in hardware (look at the trading volumes at the start of each day re the rest of the day on the NYSE) and is indeed better labeled “capital” but how much CEO compensation do you really think went into the rent/ capital payment of each CEO’s annual average of $588,000,000 in 2007? And how was that related to SUSTAINED value enhancement?
    And how much because of Keynes observation “When you owe a million, you have a problem, but when you owe a trillion, society has the problem”? They knew full well they could skim on the upside, and that the system MUST eventually crash, but it would be foolish, from a personal point of view, not to get your share while it lasted. It would crash regardless of whether or not you played the game; from a selfish point of view, not playing only meant not getting “your share”, and YOUR contribution to the crash was negligible. So the incentive was to play until it crashed. Not your problem when it crashed.
    “Capital”, is (especially when much of it is intellectual capital) essentially common property. THAT was how much of it was pre Reagan, when much was government sponsored. We invested heavily as a nation in R&D, in transportation, health care, education, digital languages, packet communication, GPS, internal guidance, were all developed on the taxpayer nickel. Today it is all privatized, an inefficient system, I would argue though I cede that most believe the jury is sill out on LR efficiency. (In the sense that MR>MC).
    See eg http://tinyurl.com/bdc65j to pick a current paper at random
    Fairness in the broader sense is what we had 1949 -1979, where all sectors grew roughly evenly. Union busting (starting with the air traffic controllers) made the labor/ management negotiation to share output ever more asymmetrical. Political power sided completely with labor after that, and management share grew relative to the “checker’s share”. Society no longer considered an educated workforce a public good, but a private responsibility. And from then on, more and more income was claimed by “management” re labor. Capital itself became more and more privatized (patenting food that had been in use for centuries, eg), and entry to the use of the “capital” denied. We moved more and more away from capitalism to corporatism and the distinction between communism and capitalism blurred until they were distinguishable today the two are distinguishable primarily by sound bite ideology. Thus income inequality grew exponentially from 1979 on as benefits were privatized and costs were socialized and the playing field became more and more “unfair”. I would strongly argue that we produce more with an educated workforce, by empowering the checker PUBLICLY.
    “First, most producers are employees of firms, not owners. Viewed from the vantage point of classical [economic] theory, they have no reason to maximize the profits of firms, except to the extent that they can be controlled by owners. Moreover, profit-making firms, nonprofit organizations, and bureaucratic organizations all have exactly the same problem of inducing their employees to work toward organizational goals. There is no reason, a priori, why it should be easier (or harder) to produce this motivation in organizations aimed at maximizing profits than in organizations with different goals. If it is true in an organizational economy that organizations motivated by profits will be more efficient than other organizations, additional postulates will have to be introduced to account for it.” —
    Hebert Simon Nobel Prize in Economics 1978
    http://tinyurl.com/ycp6tv
    Steve comments:
    “These guys have public interested proposals that I think are hugely important — and when they aren’t getting through — it’s a sign of a blind spot in the White House and probably a sign of Lawrence Summers tightly controlling what makes it in the docket to be considered. These should worry us.”
    It is indeed worrisome, and the major reason I am uncomfortable with Larry Summer acting as economic gatekeeper. His ego and riff with Joe Stiglitz is hardly a secret.
    And ….“Please don’t turn my commentary into a class warfare statement.”
    Don’t know what you mean here. If you mean don’t turn the “insider/outsider clash” into a class warfare statement, agreed. Not knowing who these “outsiders” are, one is hardly able to comment on any details you don’t reveal. You do mention bank recapitalization, where the in and out crowd have essentially opposite views, with Summers/Paulson wishing to save the country by saving bankers and existing shareholders, and Stiglitz et al seeing it is destructive to the economy to save bankers, and that it is the banking SYSTEM that warrants saving. BIG difference.
    Also while I agree Japan, Germany, China “could” help, that is essentially irrelevant. We need to fix what is under our control first. These countries have “helped” more than enough.
    But I certainly hope you don’t mean that the class warfare struggle is not central to Obama’s overall policy and strategy. That too is hardly secret. As E.J. Dione write in today’s’ (Monday,3-2) WP, “The central issue in American politics is now whether the country should reverse a three-decade-long trend of rising inequality in incomes and wealth.
    And re: “what makes it odd is that some of Obama’s biggest funders are some of the most dissatisfied.”
    Not odd to those familiar with Larry Summers ego. As Chicagoan writes: “Is anyone really surprised by this? Did anyone, for instance, not have Summers pegged as a Democratic Cheney?” and “what makes it all the more unnerving that they’re visibly playing the sort of turf games that Cheney made famous rather than putting country first, as it were.”
    In fairness to Obama and Summers, an even more direct Rahm quote in the NYorker article is :’Now, my view is that Krugman as an economist is not wrong. But in the art of the possible, of the deal, he IS wrong. He couldn’t get his legislation”.
    My response to Rahm is that I find it worrisome that you “earned” about $20B in less than three years, via the Paulson “dealmaker” technique. Now THAT is different than producing value, or even passing a S-Chip bill. The problem with passing a bill of the “possible” while ignoring Krugman’s bill of “what is efficient”, is that the cost of the possible is making the “efficient” less likely, especially something as important as addressing the long run costs of opting for a private insurance industry to administer the delivery system than the one that is much more efficient, a single payer system. What is being proposed is another short run, band aid, second-best solution, while marginally better than what we currently have, does nothing to confront inefficiencies and the incentive flaws leading to rising health care costs that require a correct framing of the problem, and a substantial improvement.

    Reply

  40. DavidT says:

    Steve,
    I think your general point of being open to lots of people and perspectives is an important one and a vital lesson from the previous administration. That some people aren’t getting through to the president or getting more than 3 minutes with Emanuel is not necessary, at least to me, evidence that this is a problem.
    One of the reasons the previous administration was so closed off was not only their philosophy but also the president’s style which was in many ways to let himself to be hand-fed by his advisors. Not so with this president.
    My betting is that he has conversations with as many different perspectives as he can have (within reason of course). As was acknowledged on “This Week with George Stephanopolous” the eponymous host who who purportedly speaks with Emanuel daily and for longer than 3 minutes, maintains for example that Paul Krugman an outsider and critic of Obama during most of the campaign and one who feels the president has not been ambitious enough is his economic efforts so far, is read closely by this administration. Jared Bernstein may be the vp’s economist but I’m sure he has input into the presdient’s thinking.
    That there are some that are unhappy that they are not getting through — well that should not be surprising to you as now an old Washington hand. That does not mean that different ideas are not getting through (I can hardly believe that his economic team is not well tapped into the political / economic views of large swaths of the cognoscenti through newspaper columns, coctail parties, and meetings).

    Reply

  41. questions says:

    erichwwk,
    I kind of think everything you write hangs on the meaning of “his/her fair share”. At this point, we value capital more than labor, and so the risks involved in using capital in bold and dangerous and scary ways are rewarded far more than the risks of injuring your body in labor. That is, the owner of the grocery store takes home way more money than does a checker with carpal tunnel syndrome. So what’s fair, labor’s or capital’s domination? Locke says “labor” for about two paragraphs and then BOOM, it’s capital.
    Rawls has a neat trick for dealing with some of these distributive issues. The first is to get all ethical and Kantian and remind us that we cannot prefer ourselves to others, so we can’t take a larger slice just because we think we deserve it. Then he gets the selfishness thing going — we are all potentially poor, miserable, unemployed, at the bottom of the heap. (In the original position, under the veil of ignorance, we are truly “everyman”.)Far better to make that bottom position as high as possible just in case it’s you or your kids down there. Sadly, this feeling of vulnerability doesn’t seem to be widely shared. But now that formerly comfortable people are hanging our shame-facedly at food pantries, doing without medications and insurance, losing their fortunes to the Madoffs of the world, maybe we can get to the point where we really feel that we’re all in the same boat together and we need to share the country, the economy and the planet. I don’t know how far this mutualism will go, but “fair share” really depends on this notion.

    Reply

  42. erichwwk says:

    First, let me start out by making two things clear. One, I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson (and I think Steve Clemons) when he states in his essay on wealth “He [man] is by constitution expensive and needs to be rich”. I also feel [by experience and observation] that:
    a)private goods are best created and distributed through markets
    b)public goods require political legislation for optimum production and consumption.
    c)If we allow each individual to develop, and keep his/her fair share of what is jointly produced, a society grows (improves) at a much faster rate than a society where a privileged class claims most of the common property as its personal entitlement. I would argue that our society currently more closely resembles a communist/authoritative society than it does a free market society as envisioned by Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek.
    d) we must allow citizens to collectively procure public goods, or we will continue to falter economically.
    RWEmerson’s “Wealth” essay begins with:
    http://tinyurl.com/b2kguj
    “As soon as a stranger is introduced into any company, one of the first questions which all wish to have answered, is, How does that man get his living? And with reason. He is no whole man until he knows how to earn a blameless livelihood. Society is barbarous, until every industrious man can get his living without dishonest customs.
    Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a producer. He fails to make his place good in the world, unless he not only pays his debt, but also adds something to the common wealth. Nor can he do justice to his genius, without making some larger demand on the world than a bare subsistence. He is by constitution expensive, and needs to be rich.”
    The U.S., like the former Soviet Union, is barbarous. The majority of wealth goes not to those that have earned it, but those who obtain it by “dishonest custom”, through the use of political favoritism and loopholes in property right law. When empirical studies by the Dean of American business consultants, Peter Drucker, determined that 20 times average earnings is the maximum that can be justified by “working harder and smarter”, and the CEO’s of the top 50 hedge funds withdrawn (on average) 19,000 times average earnings as their personal compensation entitlement, what could be clearer that we have an economy based NOT on each person receiving his or her fair share of what has been jointly produced, but by distribution of output by dishonest customs of political and legal favoritism.
    THAT is the problem that Obama correctly perceives as America’s NUMBER ONE PROBLEM, and one that I, and many economists agree is the most important challenge facing America, although we differ with the Obama team on how to implement that strategy.
    Linda F, a frequenter commenter to TWN sent me a wonderful article – “The Challenge of Faust” by Hans Christoph Binswanger published in Science 31 July 1998, that sheds light on what causes economic growth:
    In Faust Goethe thus describes, with historical accuracy, the establishment of three crucial instruments that enabled economic growth and served as a motor for further development:
    (i) The creation of paper money, which began with the issuance of bank notes by the Bank of England at the end of the 17th century and forms the basis of our global system of currency, with its potential for constant expansion;
    (ii) James Watt’s invention of the steam engine at the end of the 18th century and the use of coal, which marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution;
    (iii) the Roman property law of “dominium,” the ius utendi et abutendi re sua (the right not merely to use, but also to consume, one’s private property) in the Code Napoleon–the new civil code created by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. This concept of ownership provides the necessary legal sanction for the increasing subordination of nature to the requirements of economic exploitation.
    All three of these were covered in Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” by pages 6-10. Although Smith expanded more on specialization, division of labor, and the extent of markets, these ALL follow logically from the above 3 items.
    What is not included, and not really understood until after WWII, was the role NON-PRIVATE property, or public goods played in wealth creation. Beginning with Robert Solow, it was found that close to 90% of wealth creation could not be explained by an increase in either the quantity nor the quality of capital and labor, but rather by the existence of COMMON Property, namely the accumulation of knowledge that was storable and passed on to future generations. A society produces more, not because of special entrepreneurial individuals possessed with some special insight or work ethic, but because he lives AMONG such individuals. Paul Samuelson further refined this in his article (1954) “The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure.” Review of Economics and Statistics 36 (4): 387–389 were he pointed out the importance of distinguishing between goods in accordance to their PRIVATE and PUBLIC characteristics. These characteristics are INHERENT in the nature of a good (an apple is a pure private good, and intellectual property is a pure public good); a society that attempts to treat private goods as public (as did the USSR), or public goods as private (as does the USA today) will produce significantly below its potential, and not be able to grow anywhere near as much as a country that bases its economic system on reality, rather than economic ideology and dogma (such as China). This is an irrefutable FACT.
    The USA has three problems:
    1) It’s money supply is a mess, but I suspect Ben Bernanke will eventually prevail (or is it wishful thinking?) over the Rubinites and especially Larry Summers and fix that. (Although watching him in session, one’s heart goes out to Ben for having to endure some rather silly political posturing, and one hopes he will continue to put up with it for the good of the country). We MUST have a both a stable dollar to facilitate future contracts and an appropriate incentive structure for financial managers that encourage good behavior.
    2) Its property right structure is in a worse mess. The focus is on “making money”, which is quite different from “increasing economic well being”. We have returned to quasi-slavery where some feel it best for labor incomes to be as low as possible, and entrepreneurial and management salaries as high as possible. In addition, most politicians are clueless relative the private-public good distinction, and act as if they are GOD, with the power to determine which goods are public and which are private by legislation.
    3) It’s energy policy is a mess, but that WILL be largely self-correcting if the money supply and property right structures are fixed.
    I close with something I learned from a 2-18-09 New America Foundation Forum on “Millenium Generation and Politics”. Scott Keeter reported on findings of a steady decline in interpersonal trust over the last several decades, one that correlates with the steady rise in entitlement theft by the privileged upper classes. For me, and I suspect many Americans, trust must be earned. The way to begin is to treat everyone equally, and do away with “too big to fail” and “to big to jail”. War and constitutional criminals cannot be coddled and continue to live in plush penthouses while their victims are thrown out into the streets.
    I close with an expression of gratitude to Steve Clemons for his determined efforts to have both transparency and inclusiveness in US economic policy. We CAN help America be a great place again. Keep it up!

    Reply

  43. alan says:

    Steve: I have read the posts and your various responses. Here is my problem: 1) if the people who funded Obama’s campaign have good ideas/suggestions/critiques why are they not making them out in the open. Why all the “in the shadows” stuff. Isn’t that at the core of our problems: these shadowy supporters who want in on decision making, feel left out, but won’t be up front about it?
    And “three minutes with Rahm”: do we have to accept the idea that one can deal with our problems in three minutes.
    I have worked at the highest levels of government ( not the US) and I simply laugh at the notion thar Rahm is so busy he breaks his day into three minutes segments.
    I was under the impression that Pres Obama’s intention was to let the sun shine on the way Washington works. Instead I see the same people working in the shadows, as usual. Until I see Stiglitz and Krugman being involved in some of the talks I think the Summers/Geithner approach is just the same old same old.

    Reply

  44. rich says:

    Steve,
    Appreciate your concern here — and I’m SURE it aids you in interpreting & relating to the concern/dismay expressed by Obama supporters as he went about appointing Summers, Rubin and Geithner (whom I like) while shutting Stiglitz, Galbraith and Krugman out in the cold. That’s not only one-sided, it’s more than a little nuts.
    You write:
    “My point here is that some very smart people who actually helped move Obama into the White House are not getting their material into his docket..” and “The folks I am referring to …helped fund the Democratic party’s victory — yes, you did too — but they did in more focused leaps.”
    What could be a more focused leap than recognizing, funding, & backing Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa? Or long before? You recognize, I think, and can afford to acknowledge publicly, the prescience, critical role, precision timing and advanced policy perspectives of the many voters — whether Iowa farmers, Madison political junkies, Chicago pols or your own commenters here @ TWN — whose ‘small’ contributions provided the indispensable and startingly focused leaps that advanced Barack Obama’s campaign, early on.
    Your commenters are not the groundlings or peanut gallery that some may perceive them to be.
    Many saw this economic crisis coming for more than a decade; many others are incredibly well-informed on matters of state, covert ops, and the realism requisite to power relations and recovering American balance.
    Just consider that we may be on the same page as your plutocratic friends, so discomfited at being shut out — and many of us have as good or better ideas. I recognize ‘the game’, and your sense of balance, but maybe they’re just receiving the same treatment as the rest of us. I know not every wealthy donor is a bandwagon-jumper; some got on board early.
    The best ideas for fixing the economy are already out there, identified, advocated and already practiced by some supposedly ordinary individuals. The more innovative tools & ideas that will fix this crisis are well in hand — and it’d behoove the latecomers to open the doors to full dialog, plutocrats or not, and take a gander at what’s been going on out where these ideas have been incubated.
    Hell, if Joe Biden can catch on, anyone can.
    Mark Edlen really got his attention in a recent conference call, when he schooled Ed Rendell & Co. by far outpacing the self-congratulatory weak half-measures with which Rendell crowns himself king of th greens.
    You don’t have to read Richard Florida in the Atlantic to figure out where the fiscal, energy, resource and economic metabolism went wrong in this country. You just have to pay attention to what’s being done west of Cleveland, excluding sun-belt style suburbanization.
    The new model’s already outpacing the vision of most policymakers, who’re busily trying to save the old model.

    Reply

  45. rich says:

    questions,
    Dead on about Obama’s caution about exposing himself to political risk. I’m a Rahm Emanuel Skeptic, but he’s exceeded expectations and as you note, rightly stated that “Krugman is right, but we don’t have the votes and until you can get Ted Kennedy and Al Franken in, stfu….” Still need Krugman, though, to set forth reality for Dems & Repubs alike.
    Obama’s refusal to open himself up for easy evisceration drives much of his rhetorical positioning. His promise to increase the military while delivering for veterans, resolving stop-loss, and attacking ‘waste, fraud, & abuse’ was clearly designed to gather allies & support and hip-check opponents while advancing sound policy. Smartly and deftly done; sharing Steve’s concern, let’s wait for the bottom line to see if the Pentagon’s budget has actually grown.
    We already have the right wing already whipping up anger over fictional and even hysterical smears, accleratingripe for the demagaguing. The NYPost’s ‘chimp cartoon’ was an open call to assassination. Jindal’s a joke but Limbaugh isn’t, and all it takes is a handful of nutjobs.
    “AND he’s got the looming possibility of re-arming the right for another 3 decades if he moves the wrong way. Don’t underestimate the concern here. The failure we could endure as a nation with Palin and Jindal and Gingrich’s running things is a sight to avoid.

    Reply

  46. questions says:

    There’s a whole other dimension to all of this that no one seems to have touched on and that is political possibility. Rahm Emanuel hit on this issue recently (New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza, I think) — Krugman is right, but we don’t have the votes and until you can get Ted Kennedy and Al Franken in, stfu….
    Obama has two major stopping points to deal with — one is the current legislative situation. Snowe, Specter, and the like must be kept happy for now. AND he’s got the looming possibility of re-arming the right for another 3 decades if he moves the wrong way. Don’t underestimate the concern here. The failure we could endure as a nation with Palin and Jindal and Gingrich’s running things is a sight to avoid.
    The partisan/political/Congressional/moneyed supporter dance is central to the success of anything they try. If nationalization comes out before the nation is ripe for it, we’re in a worse mess than we will be should we wait for a little more failure.
    Almost everyone knows that the fed’s pool of debt is going to have to be used to help us out of this mess, but some people aren’t there yet. Until the public rhetoric shifts away from sheer panic over “socialism” and “nationalization”, we’re not going to see either of these.

    Reply

  47. Chris says:

    Wasn’t that the point of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) headed up by Volcker?
    When announcing the board Obama said:
    “The Board will be composed of distinguished individuals from diverse backgrounds outside of government — from business, labor, academia and other areas — who will bring to bear their wisdom and expertise on the formulation, implementation and evaluation of my Administration’s economic recovery plan…The reality is that sometimes policymaking in Washington can become too insular. The walls of the echo chamber can sometimes keep out fresh voices and new ways of thinking…”
    Isn’t this a better avenue for diverse ideas than a bunch of big donors peeved at the lack of access?

    Reply

  48. cherish says:

    They are all used to being the center of attentions in their respective fields of endeavor. It is inevitable that many of them will be frustrated that they are not able to get more time, but that comes with the territory. … If there are some very important billionaires who feel like they can’t get around Summers to present their ideas, then they should form their own private panel and present a public report that will certainly attract much attention, given their high-profile status.
    I would also note that many of these guys, Soros in particular, express their views frequently in print and interviews. I doubt their views are a mystery to the members of the Obama administration.
    What Dan Kervick said.
    I’m not able to comment on derivatives, but when I read Steve’s original post I had to chuckle at the “three minutes with Rahm” restriction. We know damn well these billionaires haven’t had to perform an elevator pitch in decades.

    Reply

  49. John Waring says:

    Where is this serious regulation of derivatives? Who is working this issue, and who is working on the broader issue of crafting a new regulatory framework for the financial industry? As …, intimates, we may need root and branch reform of regulatory institutions themselves. The SEC did not find and stop Madoff, and the Fed under Greenspan and Bernanke may have been complicit in enabling the very ills the Fed now struggles against. The contagion under discussion is world wide in scope, so the new regulatory environment must be international in scope as well, with international institutions playing a greater role than before.
    If we want to talk about restoring confidence in an economy as weak and tottering as ours we have to start with reform, not end there. We need to figure out the new rules of the game, and those rules have to drive the Great Unwinding as it occurs. And I think only government can be in charge of the Great Unwinding. Only sovereign power can clean up a debacle this Homeric. I just hope those at the helm have the wisdom and the utter ruthlessness that catastrophe demands.

    Reply

  50. Zathras says:

    A little more background on the alleged bottleneck facing unofficial policy advisers is in Monday’s Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/01/AR2009030101788.html?hpid=topnews
    The comment here about Emanuel may or may not be fair, but it’s also fair to ask just how much influence he has on the key issues of economic policy. The implication of the Cho piece is that he has a lot less than Summers and Geithner — which is one might expect, really.

    Reply

  51. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag, the billionaire in question says he can get through to Emmanuel “any time he wants”, and when he gets through he “gets three minutes with him”. That seems like an extraordinary amount of access to me, given the incredible demands on Emanuel’s time. Despite Steve’s cryptic rumor, we have no evidence that Obama is suffering from a dreadful Billionaire Advice Deficit. There is one president and one chief of staff and there a small number of hours in the day. There must be literally thousands of bright, successful accomplished and insightful individuals who are eager to talk to Emanuel or Obama for an extended period of time. They are all used to being the center of attentions in their respective fields of endeavor. It is inevitable that many of them will be frustrated that they are not able to get more time, but that comes with the territory. When is it exactly that Emanuel is supposed to be taking all of these phone calls?
    Isn’t this kind of economic advice supposed to be going through Larry Summers anyway? If there are some very important billionaires who feel like they can’t get around Summers to present their ideas, then they should form their own private panel and present a public report that will certainly attract much attention, given their high-profile status.
    I would also note that many of these guys, Soros in particular, express their views frequently in print and interviews. I doubt their views are a mystery to the members of the Obama administration. Anyone who wants to know what Soros thinks can watch his extended Davos interviews on YouTube or read his many op-eds.
    And what’s with the cheap shot at Oprah Winfrey? And who the hell are you to say how impressive or not impressive she is?

    Reply

  52. Spunkmeyer says:

    Good to see you wading into the swamp of economic policy,
    Steve. While I know you’re no stranger to the subject matter, it
    definitely seems like the critical path agenda for 2009. Be sure
    to take your anti-malarials.
    The biggest problem with policy decisions by both the Obama
    and Bush administrations to date is that they have reflected a
    strategy of trying to prop up values of real estate and stock
    prices so as to limit losses to The Owners. Unfortunately, the
    only solution that will work — hold established values without
    screwing over Owners — is hyperinflation. That’s bad for every
    saver, every non-Owner, and anyone interested in imported
    goods.
    By guess is that one of the monikers of Geithner’s policies I
    have heard elsewhere — Timbabwe — will gain more
    widespread notice in the months ahead.

    Reply

  53. WigWag says:

    There are plenty of billionaires that Obama should be listening to. In addition to Warren Buffet, there’s Eric Schmidt of Google and George Soros; both are thoughtful and knowledgeable and public spirited.
    Bill Gates knows as much about development issues as any politician or government bureaucrat; his views should be taken seriously.
    Michael Bloomberg has been a reasonably successful Mayor who is thoughtful about public policy.
    The Crown Family and the Pritzker Family both of Chicago are big Democratic givers who have a long relationship with Obama. They are certainly very knowledgeable about real estate matters.
    Eli Broad, the Los Angeles real estate magnate has turned himself into one of the smartest philanthropists in America, especially in the area of medical research; Obama would be well advised to listen to his advice.
    Haim Saban of Los Angeles (who made his fortune on the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”) is a huge Democratic giver who is thoughtful about Middle East issues as is fellow Los Angeles billionaire, Stephen Spielberg. Howard Schultz of Starbucks is a billionaire who has also distinguished himself by focusing on development issues in the third world.
    Of course the one billionaire who probably can get through to Obama is the least impressive of them all; Oprah Winfrey.
    There are plenty of billionaires who could give Obama good advice. Each of them should get a little more than 3 minutes of Rahm Emanuel’s time.

    Reply

  54. ... says:

    dan kervick quote “It’s just important to recognize that the statements and advice they offer may have conflicting motives beyond a concern for the common good.” indeed… let me give you an example of one such statement with advice where the motives are suspect…
    “The Federal Reserve concluded that if A.I.G. failed and defaulted on its swaps, throwing the liability for the insured securities onto the swaps’ counterparties, the result could be a daisy chain of failures across the international financial system.”
    where was the federal reserve to be seen with the introduction of these credit default swaps?? did the federal reserve have anything to say about them, such as they needed to be regulated with certain financial requirements in order that they be offered in the first place? folks need to take a look at the federal reserves role in where the usa is today financially… what other institution would get a free pass with their centrality to these circumstances??
    off to do something else..

    Reply

  55. Steve Clemons says:

    Zathras — fair points all…and you are right about your last line.
    I will try to put something up tomorrow that gets at policy prescriptions that reflect what I think the White House needs to move toward — both in the substantive core, in tone, and in sequencing…and I think that for the most part my thinking is both a hybrid of some of the views I have heard — and tied to work I did more than a decade ago in the Senate on a “High Wage Jobs Task Force” effort.
    Tomorrow should see a couple of posts on this subject – and I’d be interested in the reactions of serious commenters here, even Robert M, who had interesting things to say about derivatives.
    The guy who really got the derivatives game right years ago — in the mid-1990s was Randall Dodd of the Derivaties Study Center, which was loosely affiliated with the Economic Strategy Institute where I worked with Clyde Prestowitz. Randy Dodd today is working for the IMF — but he beat much of the field with how toxic derivatives were and called for serious regulation way back then. Soros did too for that matter.
    More later,
    Steve

    Reply

  56. Dan Kervick says:

    Where I think we have to be skeptical about the complaints of billionaires is that these people may themselves have huge sums of money invested in strategies that will succeed of fail based on government policy. In effect, they have made financial bets on the course of action global governments will follow, and if the government follows a different course it will hit them in the wallet. But that’s no reason for a blanket rejection of their complaints. It’s just important to recognize that the statements and advice they offer may have conflicting motives beyond a concern for the common good. We need to see the actual arguments.

    Reply

  57. Zathras says:

    Steve Clemons is quite good at what he does, and I don’t want to tell him his business. In his place, though, I would omit all but very brief hints as to who holds what policy ideas and be much more specific about the ideas themselves.
    I can guess what elements of the new administration’s stimulus package and spending priorities are thought inadequate by Democratic movers and shakers, and can also guess that some of the things they are most concerned about aren’t (and couldn’t be) part of the discussion over the stimulus bill itself. This part of the main post is so cryptic as to be confusing to most readers. Clemons’s reputation for being connected in Democratic circles is well enough established by this time that the relevant people in the administration would be well able to grasp that a more enlightening post was not just his own opinion — certainly not on this subject.

    Reply

  58. ... says:

    i encourage anyone interested in understanding this topic and how we got here to read the link robert m provided above… here it is again..
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/business/28nocera.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

    Reply

  59. Hijikata says:

    I have not taken comfort with the ease with which a “solution” was proposed and initiated, in the context of the serious complexity of movers of the economy. Seems like furious activity mistaken (or sold) as progress. Does anyone truly understand the core issues enough to propose pouring money anywhere, let alone where the stimulus package is sending it, or does someone know something but isn’t sharing the knowledge? I don’t think many of us are convinced of the specifics. To cure a disease you need to know where and what the cause of the heart of the disease is, and apply the specific remedy, be it in parts or as a whole. Economics has always seemed something of a religion rather than hard science to non-economists. To my knowledge, Obama is not an economist. I doubt seriously that Summers and Geithner, wise as they may be, can represent all the angles, but probably do represent one approach, and seriously wonder the prudence of limiting the access Steve discusses. Is discussion among differing views there is enlightment, otherwise you see what you want to see (have a hammer, everything’s a nail argument). I also agree with Steve that a billionaire industrialist has a lot more insight than me, the average joe donor: we see the effects, he sees the “man behind the curtain”… If the billionaire seeks leverage, that’s another issue entirely.

    Reply

  60. Steve Clemons says:

    Just FYI — I am reposting two of Robert M’s substantive posts and not reposting a third. I want to reiterate to all posters that I have little patience with ad hominem attacks against me — or between all of you. Policy debates are fine — but the attacks just poison this comment roster, and when I have time to actually read them, I won’t tolerate mean spirited assaults. I hope Robert M gets with it and comes back. But he has to live within the confines of civility I set. End of subject.
    — steve clemons

    Reply

  61. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Judy. I’ll have more on this tomorrow…best, steve

    Reply

  62. Judy OLeary says:

    I’ve just “shared” your post with recovery.gov with the added remark of “don’t screw this up”

    Reply

  63. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Chicagoan — I may repost Robert M’s material another time…but at this point, I can’t.
    best, steve

    Reply

  64. Chicagoan says:

    I was going to respond to a post that’s disappeared… weird stuff.
    Anyway, if I could wave a magic wand I’d certainly want to do away with these poisonous instruments. However, much of the problem with them is their opacity. They aren’t traded on central exchanges or only by certain parties. Even if one wanted to cancel them all out there seems to be no way to do so. Nor is there any will. Congress still hasn’t even gotten around to passing a law regulating the things yet, a year and a half after they caused the capital markets to start imploding.
    Moreover, these instruments all that’s propping up the financial markets. Without the big banks having insurance out on their toxic assets, they would have to write those assets down to points where even the most forebearing or corrupt regulators couldn’t ignore their insolvency. At that point, much of the hundreds of billions or perhaps trillions of dollars of bank debt that foreign governments, sovereign wealth funds and like hold would evaporate. And at that point we would essentially have declared economic war on countries like China and various Gulf states.
    I think that it’s inevitable that those countries will have to take massive losses on the money they lent our bankrupt financial system. But they’re going to want pounds of flesh for it. I just see no sign that the political class is facing a reality where, say, Taiwan’s independence might be on the table as the price for what we’ve allowed to take place in our markets.

    Reply

  65. Steve Clemons says:

    ….,
    I am banning Robert M until I receive an apology and he commits to post here on the same terms as others do. He was way out of line. I have no patience for it.
    If he turns it around, cool, I will republish most of his commentary — if not, I encourage him to move elsewhere.
    best, steve

    Reply

  66. Steve Clemons says:

    just a note that I have unpublished Robert M’s commentary. It’s cool to debate my points — not cool to engage in ad hominem attacks against each other or me — particularly on my dime.
    best, steve clemons

    Reply

  67. ... says:

    wow.. i see robert m’s posts have been removed… i would still like to make this post directed to him that i was having trouble with due the captcha… hopefully he can answer…
    robert m – just back, but to quote you “The derivatives are simply canceled as contracts and never again issued.” that isn’t the way it works with the derivative market.. generally there are 2 sides to any contract,which you could view as a bet on the direction of the underlying asset(s) that the derivative is based on.. you can’t cancel one side without involving the other… the derivative market is much more significant then the bond or stock market, but much less understand.. derivatives are often used as insurance on these other markets, but also a speculative means of trading in a way that is too opaque for most people… i don’t know how you cancel these contracts without someone assuming the liability on them and what is done with the other side of the trade?. perhaps you can give us an example of where this has ever been done????

    Reply

  68. Robert M says:

    Chicagoan
    There is a list; every institution that wrote them has it. These aren’t standardized contracts like a equity option contract.
    One, answer is national security. A bankrupt America is useless to everyone. Two, is force majeure ruling by a court. By offering a payback of the premiums you simply end liability by both parties. The payback would take place over three or four years. Lack of insurance doesn’t make you insolvent. Three, you aren’t a Santelli follower are you? He’s a fraud See here: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/02/rick-santellis-faux-rant/
    To understand better look at a microcosm(Can we use such a word when discussing this much money?) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/business/28nocera.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

    Reply

  69. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, my post was intended as a statement about Obama, rather than a statement about your “friends”.
    And currency isn’t the only kind of “donation” that Obama took advantage of. There are also those that donated time and effort, only to see Obama backpedal on many of his promises, as well as embrace a number of Bush’s more egregious “legal” stances.
    Truth be told, the people have a very sorry lot of choices, as Jindal’s pathetic rebuttal so clearly demonstrated, to say nothing of CPAC’s recent celebration of Limbaugh and Palin as figureheads of thier party. Good God, Alfred E. Newman would look better than those adored by the right.
    And so there you have it. We get Obama, who is as fake as a six dollar bill, and seems bound and determined to out-clusterfuck George Bush, a feat he is bound to be successful at if he engages us on three war fronts, as he seems to be headed for.
    It shouldn’t suprise your friends that Obama is thumbing his nose at them. I hate to keep bringing up Obama’s “questions” website, but it is just such a perfect gauge of what to expect from Obama. I can assure you, I spent many hours perusing the questions, and the overwhelming majority were NOT what the website managers claimed they were. When it was apparent that the Obama supporters were not going to get with the script, the site was terminated with no archives. And Obama’s actions since do not instill optimism that he gives more of a shit about the people’s will than George Bush did.
    BTW, what do you think about us boycotting Durban? You think we were afraid that the attendees would smell the rancid odor of burnt human flesh on our clothing?

    Reply

  70. Chicagoan says:

    Robert M.—What legal mechanism would you use to cancel these derivatives contracts? There are no centralized lists of them, or even any commonly accepted definition of what they are. Additionally, if you canceled them you would instantly render every money center bank irreparably insolvent, causing massive losses to sovereign investors and the possible fall of governments in places like Saudi Arabia and China. I don’t want to be an apocalyptic lunatic, but you’re talking about triggering events that could literally conceivably lead to World War III. I don’t envy men like Emanuel, Summers and Geithner their task, which is what makes it all the more unnerving that they’re visibly playing the sort of turf games that Cheney made famous rather than putting country first, as it were.

    Reply

  71. Chicagoan says:

    Is anyone really surprised by this? Did anyone, for instance, not have Summers pegged as a Democratic Cheney?
    It could not be more worrying that even now the public and seemingly a lot of the political class doesn’t seem to understand the scale of the crisis. The dissolution of the European Union is a very real possibility. So is a full scale 1930s-style depression. Look at the crisis we’ve been pitched into by the decline of banks that hold assets equal to 60% of GDP, and then consider that the UK’s five biggest banks hold assets equal to more like 500% of theirs.
    Literally nothing coming out of the White House has shown that Obama’s team is even contemplating actions as radical as those that will plainly be necessary by summer.

    Reply

  72. Robert M says:

    I read your last reply 6:55 and laughed. This is where you should have started because the money equals access meme is total BS. The Obama campaign raised millions of dollars over the internet to avoid money people.
    As to names I am curious what there point is. I think President Obama is getting terrible advice as well IMO he is getting it from the people you mention and they are benefiting at the expense of the taxpayer. I say that because I want these large financial institutions liquidated as they fall under the FDIC rules. Under these rules they are insolvent.
    To start w/ a name Citigroup(C). The taxpayer gave them $25,000,000,000 and guaranteed $20,000,000,000 in losses on certain assets. The taxpayers money was just turned into a 36% share of the bank worth $13,000,000,000 and we are still on the hook for the losses. Isn’t it time the Prince, common and preferred shareholders and bondholders lose their money?
    the fear of liquidation forcing assets to be priced isn’t what it is cracked up to be. The assets to be sold mortgage backed bonds and credit fault derivatives can be sold in the case of the bonds and dismissed as contracts with the derivatives. The mortgage bonds are sold to whom ever. With the end of the crisis as the economy slowly, very slowly heals itself people will pay their mortgages making the bonds whole.
    The derivatives are simply canceled as contracts and never again issued. The premiums returned to buyer over the next three or four years. They are insurance contracts for bonds. This has to be done because they are the real threat. This market has a nominal value of over $66,000,000,000,000 based on the face value of bonds and the number of insurance contracts sold. There is even a market for US sovereign debt derivatives-what effing institution has more money than the US government.
    Now many people are afraid of the outcome because they think it will prevent the economy from coming back as no one will lend w/o protection. More BS. The problem is when you absorb every buyer of credit into the market the clean up means going back to tighter standards and real business plans. The reality is the economy will come back but again as I said w/ the bonds very slowly.
    I would appreciate if you would discuss this w/ you no name smart guys and come back and tell me where I am wrong.

    Reply

  73. Robert M says:

    You are such a fraud. If you had started this entry the way you spoke to Beth you wouldn’t be guilty of this charge.

    Reply

  74. Dan Kervick says:

    Hmmm …billionaires who support the Democrats. How many are there?
    Well, Warren Buffet is someone who helped Obama get into the White House, has been seen as part of Obama’s kitchen cabinet, and has long focused on the problem of the US trade deficit with the export economies abroad.
    The people who see things Buffet’s way don’t appear to be too happy with Obama’s economic team, or with the direction of his agenda. I suspect they believe the plan is too focused on stimulating domestic consumption, rather than consumption abroad.
    http://tradeandtaxes.blogspot.com/2009/01/warren-buffetts-import-certificates.html

    Reply

  75. Steve Clemons says:

    Beth in VA — I mention names and stuff in part to give some outside the feel for what is going on inside here. But in this post, I am not doing that. I’m clearly concerned about regular families and regular workers but I’m not anti-wealth at all. I’m just not. The folks I am referring to are powerful, connected, and helped fund the Democratic party’s victory — yes, you did too — but they did in more focused leaps. But that is not why I think they should be listened to.
    I actually think that many of these guys have a greater sense of the national good — in a selfless sense — than many of the lobbyists and other players that Obama is planning to do battle with. These guys have public interested proposals that I think are hugely important — and when they arent getting through — it’s a sign of a blind spot in the White House and probably a sign of Lawrence Summers tightly controlling what makes it in the docket to be considered. These should worry us.
    Please don’t turn my commentary into a class warfare statement. It’s not that — it’s a comment on the White House not hearing smart people and smart proposals — and what makes it odd is that some of Obama’s biggest funders are some of the most dissatisfied.
    Thanks, steve

    Reply

  76. Steve Clemons says:

    WigWag and …,
    I agree with both of you…but don’t get lost in the plutocracy
    stuff…wasn’t my intent. Although I think that this is a reality
    regarding Washington access that people seem to want to not hear.
    all best, steve

    Reply

  77. ... says:

    steve, while it is disappointing to be reminded of the plutocratic nature of usa’s political system, i think obama has been dealt a really bad hand of cards… this has more to do with the usa’s past actions then anything short term political.. will he be able to solve any of it? doubtful.. will he be blamed? most definitely.. i remember stating on this board and another one at least a good year ago that financial issues are going to become a lot more important and in focus.. that seems to be coming to pass as your site attests to this.. keep on looking for answers and leave all topics on the table until they have been exhausted..

    Reply

  78. WigWag says:

    “but the frustration I’m hearing from a great number of these types of donors — types who are not only wealthy and helped finance much of the Democratic Party’s victory in November but who are also smart and connected — is that they are not getting through where it counts. The policy options they are proposing aren’t getting into the basket of proposals that Obama is considering.”
    Joe Stiglitz. Paul Krugman and James Galbraith must be pretty frustrated too. The policy options that they are proposing don’t seem to be getting into the basket of proposals that Obama is considering either.

    Reply

  79. Beth in VA says:

    Funny, millions of us helped fund the Obama campaign. I have no illusions of getting three minutes with Rahm Emmanuel. Usually I love the name dropping and the insider stories. But other times, well, the concern trolling for the wealthy elites just meets no sympathy with this one representative of the unwashed masses.

    Reply

  80. Steve Clemons says:

    Dennis — I am referring not to nationalization but to a lot of other issues when it comes to the scale and direction of economic investment — and when it comes to recapitalizing banks, among other topics.
    I won’t go into specifics in this post because that would help identify who I was speaking about and don’t want to go there. But I have been writing a lot lately about the economic picture and what I think needs to happen — particularly internationally with regard to consumption in China, Japan and Germany — so you’ll have to look for specifics in that material.
    My point here is that some very smart people who actually helped move Obama into the White House are not getting their material into his docket, and because of the seriousness of these players, their views should be considered — not because they are donors and powerful but because they make a hell of a lot of sense — and are a healthy alternative to Rubinomics.
    That was the point of this post, and I think that message is important for those in the White House to hear (and read).
    POA — I hope that’s not the case. My friends, for better or worse, are not the type to bribe folks with projects per se. They are serious thinkers who are seriously concerned about the economy, workers, consumption, and the health of the entire system…
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  81. Wendell Belew says:

    Can you comment on the substance of the criticism of Obama economic policies?

    Reply

  82. PissedOffAmericasn says:

    Gee Steve, are you implying Obama just “used” these donors, and now that he’s in, he ain’t interested in their input?
    Well, isn’t that how things are done in Washington? Promise anything and everything to get in, then after you’re in, flip everyone the bird?
    Obama is just following tradition. But don’t worry, he’ll talk to your friends again as soon as he, or his cronys, need some cash. Perhaps if they whispered something about donating to some project in Illinois they’d get more than three minutes. Mentioning an offshore bank account wouldn’t hurt either.

    Reply

  83. Dennis Mennis says:

    This post is fascinating….yet totally useless because it is so vague.
    Are you referring to nationalization? My thinking is that Geithner and co. are in a slow-build to that position, that it can’t happen overnight for administrative and political reasons. Or, they really won’t ever do it and we’re screwed. But I have a hard time believing this.
    But you really need to offer something resembling specifics.

    Reply

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