Monday, February 27, 2012

Before Sunrise



I need to do some thinking on effectiveness. In no particular order, this is what I’ve learned before sunrise this morning.

James Fallows took the time to say what I have been saying (mostly through Krugman’s work) -- that stupid economic policies should be obvious.

What Austerity Hath Wrought

”Some day people will look back in puzzlement at the prevailing U.S. mood of 2011, when in the face of the biggest job-loss collapse in two generations the prevailing rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans alike emphasized the need to cut public spending, now. (And, yes, it should have been seen as puzzling and self-destructive at the time.)”

”Austerity measures, in the middle of a collapsing private economy, make things worse, not better. This observation would be akin to "gravity pulls you down, not up" except that so many people seemed not to remember or believe it last year. (Viz: the whole debt ceiling train-wreck.)”

There are a couple of must-see graphs on the blog post.

Moving on (before I go into the I-told-you-so mode). I learned a little about the Federal Election Commission from Trevor Potter this morning. He was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. (Fresh Air is a real “hit-or-miss” show for me. It’s either fascinating or boring. But Terry Gross is probably one of the best interviewers out there.)

Examining The SuperPAC With Colbert's Trevor Potter

”GROSS: So let's talk about where the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, comes in. You used to serve on the commission. Part of its job is to hold candidates and PACs accountable. How good of a job has it been doing?”

”POTTER: Well, it's had its critics for years. One of the reasons I joined the commission is that as a lawyer in private practice I was frustrated by the commission. I thought it wasn't being very effective or very efficient. And I thought, well, this is an opportunity to improve the way the agency operates.”

”There are three - effectively - Republicans, three Democrats on the commission. It takes four votes to do anything. And the three Republicans currently on the commission do not appear to believe that the commission should be a regulator of spending in elections. They are largely deregulatory in philosophy. They opposed or have criticized McCain-Feingold, the law that they're supposedly enforcing. And what we're seeing is a split on the commission between those commissioners who want to enforce the law and those who say it would be wrong to do so or that it would crimp speech.

The result of that is the commission is essentially now missing in action. It is not a watchdog because it's sitting there tied up, unable to move by this 3-3 deadlock in a whole range of important cases.”


But wait, there’s more. There are knots in their knots. Brought to you by (of course) the political party that specializes in knot making.

”POTTER: He nominated one person who then withdrew. They are no nominees now for any of the five seats that are supposed to be vacant. And therefore, Congress hasn't done anything because there's no one to do anything with.

The White House says privately that they haven't done anything because the Republicans' leadership on the Hill has not cooperated in helping them nominate names, identify Republicans who could serve. But either way, we have a deadlock on the commission, a deadlock in the nomination process between the White House and Congress, and a commission that is unable to function.

At the same time, the IRS, which could be dealing with these C4s and the disclosure issues we've been talking about - the political spending - has visibly done nothing. There is no sign that it is involved. In fact, they backed off recently when some of their agents - professional career people - were asking questions about C4s and their tax status and contributions to them, a number of Republican members of Congress objected and the IRS commissioner announced that it was all a mistake, they would no longer ask those questions of the C4s. So the IRS seems to be out of action, afraid, I think, of political controversy. That leaves the Justice Department.

There two problems with that. One is, of course, it's part of the Obama administration, so that anything it does runs the risk of being seen as political and anti-Republican. And the other problem is that its jurisdiction is only if there is an actual criminal act. The FEC is supposed to enforce the laws, unless the violation is so bad that it is what the legal standard is knowing and willful - that you knew you were breaking the law and you did it anyway. And in that case, the Justice Department has jurisdiction. So that's a much higher standard for them to get involved.”


I’m reminded of something I read or heard somewhere before, that the real corruption today is in making sure nothing gets done. The graft is already in place. The contractors are getting paid. The corporations have their tax loop holes and sweetheart contracts. The game is already rigged. The real corruption today is to make sure no one fixes anything.

To see what I mean you only have to keep listening to Terry just a little longer. For her next guest is James Bob, the lawyer that first represented Citizens United. He is also special counsel for the National Right to Life Committee and special counsel for Focus on the Family. Yeah.

There’s no transcript. You just have to listen. (Click on the “Listen to the Story” button.) He runs all over Terry Gross. He is evidently a very good lawyer and good at winning arguments. I guess the fact that it’s Lent is the reason I can’t get the idea, that Satan was really good at making an argument too, out of my head.

You really should give this interview your full attention. See if this is the kind of people you want running your government.

And just because I like to call attention to political low life when I run across it, if you have any extra time, check out the president of Citizens United -- David Bossie. You have to be a special breed of bottom feeder if Leroy Newton Gingrich wants you to resign.

Okay, I cheated. I learned that last bit (about Bossie) after the sun came up, while I was writing this blog post. You -- on the other hand -- were probably headed for work this morning (or just coming home) and want to relax and unwind in your precious free time, while I’m just getting cranked up.

Time is such a luxury. Thanks for spending some of yours reading my blog. I really try not to waste it. I have the time to follow all the links in whatever I’m reading. I realize that most people don’t.

These people are hurting your country. If you had time to research it, you could easily prove it to yourself. But you don’t. You’re too busy working, raising kids and just trying to live. I know it and they know it. Even that is part of the political calculation. The more overtime you work, the more you have to hustle and run around with your hair on fire, the less time you have to figure out the real reasons you and your wife both have to work to make ends meet.

You don’t even have time to go to a PTA meeting -- much less time to go to a county council meeting. And we wonder why our schools and government don’t work very well. Don’t worry, David Bossie, Floyd Brown and James Bob will take care of it for you. They have all the time in the world.

Yeah, it is kind of obvious when I put it that way isn’t it?

Don Brown
February 27, 2012

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