Thursday, March 19, 2009

You had to know this was coming . . .

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) suffered a political blow Wednesday with the admission that he had been involved in key legislative changes [to the Stimulus bill] that helped pave the way for AIG to pay controversial bonuses.

Of course, he also took gobs of money from AIG as the Senate Banking Committee Chair.  And now he's going to vote to confiscate the money with a 90% tax that will surely be reversed by any federal court as an unconstitutional taking in violation of the 5th Amendment.

Are the Hope and Change types even a little embarrassed yet?

Hope and Change my ass!


  1. Where's the Outrage?

    Oh, there it is!

    We are outraged (1) that our money, well, one-tenth of one percent of it anyway, is going to pay bonuses to fat cats; (2) that there were, shudder, earmarks and waste in the $800 billion stimulus package bill,and (3) that goo-gobs of our money that we gave to bail out AIG is being paid to foreign banks!

    Proposed remedies range from killing the children of people like the CEO of AIG, who came out of retirement (not from AIG) to take the job in September at the behest of government, in the hopes that he could help straighten things out, and is getting the princely sum of $1 per year, to firing the Secretary of the Treasury, to passing new laws that assure that ... well, that nothing we don't like can ever be possible again.

    Fortunately, cooler heads, or at least talking heads, came up with a nifty solution: a 90% tax on bonus payments made, to anyone who earned over $250,000 (seemingly a magic threshold in D.C.), by a company that got "bail-out" money. Good thing Haliburton got its government money the old-fashioned way, electrocuting soldiers in base-camp showers in the Middle East's brand-spanking new democracy!

    For the record, in case anyone is at all interested:
    (a) Feigned surprise that, after 75 days, the new administration has not made everything in Washington, and in politics generally, sweetness and light and probity, is out of order. Yes, Dodd took money, and yes, he then lent his clout to someone very powerful in his state's major industry. Let's call him the "Dodd One" --four vacancies, at the moment, for the "Dodd Five"-- and get on with our lives.

    (b) Yes, it is true that, in exchange for government bail-out funds for GM, the UAW allowed some of its contracted benefits to be taken away, and it doesn't seem fair that this happened to auto workers but was not allowed to happen to guys in suits. Sweep away the distinctions (e.g., the difference between a contract being modified by agreement of both sides and one being erased by fiat, and, frankly, the difference between essentially fungible assembly-line labor and (one hopes) more specialized and harder to replace financial-acumen labor), and it still doesn't seem fair. Lots of unfair things have happened, and more will happen. Sorry. I suspect that had the provision barring the bonuses survived, we might have had some serious problems as a consequence, such as concern that American contractual agreements can be removed by government fiat, just like in (pick your African kleptocracy). And by the way, a similar result might obtain if the tax (see next item) makes it into law, which is why it won't.

    (c) Although I am certainly in favor of a 90% top marginal tax rate, I don't believe it should be applied only to some people. Also, I doubt if this will pass the constitutional bar against bills of attainder. And I think any such provision should be subject to a wee bit more deliberation than was this one. I note with interest the Repub lack of glee, here: having split 50-50 in their votes on this tax, they are not crowing about the unanimity of their strategy, at present.

    (d) We gave AIG those billions, and now we are outraged that the company has used some of the dollars to fulfill its obligations, i.e., to make good on some insurance that, however unwisely, it contracted to provide to foreign concerns. Presumably, those people who are upset about this believe that AIG should have stashed that money in the bank. For heaven's sake, did they really expect that AIG wasn't going to use the funds?

    (e) Title of an item I did not read in today's WSJ: "Obama gives Republicans an Opening," by Karl Rove. Skip the fact that if you or I had done half of what this man has done, we'd be in jail; skip the contempt of Congress, and the central role in the worst abuses of power in this country in, probably, 140 years. The fact that Rove sees political opportunity in the current situation as what is most worth writing about, speaks volumes. The hell with the common weal: the 2012 elections are right around the corner! That this despicable man is being rehabilitated by respectable organizations like the WSJ and ABC News is testament to our moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

    In summary, I think everyone should calm down about the little stuff: yes, $160 million in bonuses is small stuff, as is the inevitable waste that will accompany the spending of the stimulus dollars, as is even the dreaded earmarks that a President McCain would have, by now, put "paid" to. We should be thinking about all the empty seats in government, especially in Treasury, because no one wants to be put through the meatgrinder of scrutiny that passes for vetting, these days. And we ought to be worried, not that the stock market's "Obama recession" fondly hyped by the wingnuts is upon us, but that the country is in danger of economic collapse, and that a sizeable number of people in positions of power appear to be willing to let it happen, if only they can score points, political, moral, or just righteous.

    Can't we all just fight about gay marriage, or abortion, and leave the grown-ups alone while they try to get us out of this mess? And can't we hope that they will succeed, the fulminations of the Great One notwithstanding?

  2. Tony, the part that bothers me is not so much the merits of the corruption, the irresponsibility, the use of a public crisis for political gain (you cite Rove, I site Hillary, Emmanuel, Frank, etc.), and the disregard for the constitution. The part that kills me is to see this so early and often by the same people who won elections by shouting their righteous indignation at the Bush administration's (who, by the way, was a big supporter of the Special Olympics especially Laura Bush) alleged corruption, irresponsibility, use of a public crisis for political gain, and disregard for the constitution. . Obama's (and the Left's) sanctimoniousness is what makes me puke over this. His apparent ineptness is what makes me sad for the nation. I warned of youthful utopianism and that's what we're getting. Always leads to either ineptness or tyranny. We're seeing a lot of the former and at least a small attempt (confiscation of property and the goading of angry mobs by our own leaders) at the latter.

  3. I am having a little trouble recalling what Hillary, Rahm Emanuel, or Barney Frank has done to turn a public crisis into personal political gain, at least on the scale of the previous administration, which invented an entire war on the back of 9/11, meanwhile essentially abandoning another war that might have, at the margin, made sense.

    I am delighted that Laura Bush supported the Special Olympics, just as I view as salutary the planting by Michelle Obama of a vegetable garden on the White Hourse lawn. And, if it is necessary to say so, the like about Special Olympics was (1) funny, and (2) unfortunate. We would all have laughed at it in private, and none of us would have uttered it if a special olympian were present. You get that, sometimes, in real life: people say things that are better left unsaid.

    Now, back from the commercial: I think it is naive to expect the political culture of D.C. to change overnight just because a new, idealistic, president is in office. The behavior you cited in a previous post (Chris Dodd's talking money from AIG) happened a long time ago, as these things are measured, and like many other things that happened last year or last decade, they will emerge into the light of day in their own time. Unfortunately, you cite the behavior of others without reference to specific examples, so it's difficult to know what you are referencing.

    I know that you use "makes me puke" as a sort of generalized expression of distaste (odd in someone who presumably not only values, but gets paid to use, precise language; but there you are); but, as we used to say in rhetoric, don't characterize someone else's behavior, describe it. Help me see that Obama is sanctimonious, rather than just assert that this is so.

    I see little "youthful utopianism" at work here; I see instead substantial political calculation: as an example, let's at least wait to see what Obama does with the "confiscation" you rightly condemn, and note that it originated among some of the oldest hands in the Congress, not from some youthful utopian. At the very least, you should ascribe to Obama only his own acts (and those of his administration) in your castigation of him.

    So, again: let's have a couple of examples of (1) ineptness and (2) tyranny in Obama's acts. I'd like to discuss them.

  4. I feel compelled to emphasize: you are ascribing to Obama the "confiscation of property and the goading of angry mobs by our own leaders." You are also castigating Obama, or at least his administration, implicitly as responsible for the fact that public money was used to pay bonuses. Surely you realize that these are inconsistent positions: either the administration is corrupt in greasing the skids for the bonuses, or it is tyrannical in attempting to tax these bonuses punitively. But you cannot reasonably hold both positions. Please pick one, just one.

  5. Really? You don't think it's possible, even likely, nay, certain, that the inconsistency is with the Democrats? Dodd greases the wheel for the bonuses, gets caught, then expressed outrage and confiscates them? C'mon. That's EXACTLY what happened. If there is inconsistency, it is in the policy, not my view of it.

  6. You are avoiding the issue. Here is what you said:

    "Obama's (and the Left's) sanctimoniousness is what makes me puke over this. His apparent ineptness is what makes me sad for the nation. I warned of youthful utopianism and that's what we're getting. Always leads to either ineptness or tyranny."

    I asked, please provide examples. You are specifically referring to Obama, here; so don't fall back on Dodd, or "Democrats."

    I want to know about Obama's ineptness, and his "tyranny," about which you say you warned us, and you now say has arrived. Step up, here.

    And allow me to repeat: it is inconsistent, in you, to castigate someone both for taking action to allow the bonuses and for then taking action to "confiscate" them. Sure, those who voted to do both, and there were undoubtedly plenty such, are being inconsistent. That does not excuse your taking both positions; their inconsistency does not validate your own.

  7. I never complained substantively about the bonuses, just their confiscation. Consequently, I am not being inconsistent.

    As for ineptness, I mean, from his first meeting with Brown (which caused the Brits to complain about ineptness) to his YouTube moment with the Mullahs to his inability to staff the Treasury Dept. to his other failed administrative appointments to Hillary's idiotic moment with the ambassador from russia, to his overreaching during a crises that causes even loyalists to hesitate, etc etc.

    As for tyranny, there is little yet. Tyranny requires when utopianism to succeed. Thankfully, we have only ineptness.

  8. Did I mention his commerce secretary just resigned over concern that Obama's policies will brankrupt the nation?

  9. Odd that I can't find the item about the resignation of the Commerce Secretary. Or even about his confirmation. I thought Gary Locke was still "in waiting."

    But you are correct, Peri: I construed your original comment (about Dodd paving the way for the bonuses) to be a criticism of allowing the bonuses to be paid in the first place, and aimed at Obama, notwithstanding that you were commenting about Dodd. My misconstruction was due, I see on rereading the original post, to the send-off lines about "Hope and Change" (and your ass), which I somehow associated with the new President, and not with the experienced Connecticut Senator. I think you have to grant that, although I may have over-interpreted you, you certainly invited your reader to do so by the "hope and change" lines, which, if they do not refer to Obama, are meaningless in your context.

    But I withdraw the accusation of inconsistency; and I won't even bother to substitute a complaint about imprecision in your ad hominem attack. To get a conservative to avoid ad hominem debating points is ... well, never having experienced this, I cannot conclude my figure.

    And I can grant that there have been moments of ineptness. They don't seem to be earth-shaking, and some of the ones you cite are, at most, indirectly attributable to Obama. Fortunately, none of them has come close to threatening G.W. Bush's Top Ten (fun new game: make your own list!)

    But it is also interesting to note that if you Google "Bush ineptness" you get about 48,000 results, whereas for Obama you get over 600,000. What this proves, in this land of incisive thinking by well-informed citizens, is beyond me.

    I will also admit that I am troubled by Obama's performance to this point. "Troubled," but not yet, as you might style it, "puking." I worry that Paul Krugman is right, and that a warmed-over Bush policy will not get the job done. 500-point gains on the stock market only serve to reaffrim my concern: if the fat cats like it, it probably means lots more goodies for them (e.g., head we win, tails the taxpayers lose "public-private partnerships" in place of nationalization), which is to say that the people will, once again, lose.

    But we will see.


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