Dec 22 2012

Schadenfreude: Fiscal Cliff Edition

Posted by Steve Ross in National Politics, Policy, shenanigans, snark

schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

You’d cry too if you had to herd feral cats

So I know just about everyone is talking about the NRA’s crazy town response to the Newtown shootings. I think all that needs to be said about the speech delivered Friday is nicely summed up here.

Quite frankly, I’m shocked that anyone was shocked by that announcement. LaPierre has been spouting crazy for the NRA since 1991. Same song and dance, over and over again. It ain’t about gun ownership…its about gun sales. Manufacturers pay the bills at the NRA. Don’t forget it.

So aside from providing a distraction, the NRA event was irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone, a distraction was needed, in the wake of the massive failure to herd feral cats, some called the display “a clown show”.

How We Got Here

It’s important to remember is how we got here, where it started and who is responsible.

November, 2010 – A wave of of GOP wins in Congressional races, led by 40 candidates claiming “Tea Party” affiliations, leads to the composition of the US House of Representatives flipping from 255 Democrats to 242 Republicans.

August 2, 2011 – In the wake of a contentious battle over the debt ceiling limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed with bipartisan support. The bill raised the debt ceiling and put in place a series of deep budget cuts and tax increases if the Congress could not reach an agreement.

66 Republicans voted against the deal, which would not have passed without Democratic support.

August 5, 2011 – In the wake of the vote on the Budget Control Act, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US Credit rating stating concerns with the current state of political affairs in the Congress.

February 2012 – Fed Chairman Ben Bernake coins the term “fiscal cliff”.

July/August 2012 – On July 25th the US Senate passed a proposal that would have avoided the tax increase portion of the fiscal cliff. The proposal was rejected by the House on August 1st.

November 2012 – Elections result in more GOP moderates losing. Democrats gain 8 seats in House. Incoming makeup of the House: 201D – 234R. Incoming makeup of the Senate: 55D – 45R

December 2012 – Negotiations between Speaker Boehner and President Obama net a compromise. Said compromise not brought before the House. Boehner’s bill pulled for lack of support. The House did pass a bill dealing with spending cuts, however that bill has little chance of passage in the Senate and faces a Presidential veto.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but mentions most of the highlights. Had Republicans not tried to make political hay over increasing the debt ceiling, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The Failure Option

Now I want to be very clear here: while I do get some pleasure from the outright #FAIL that was the Speaker’s effort to pass a watered down version of what he and the President were negotiating, I also understand that a failure to act by the end of the year will have some serious consequences for regular folks. Those consequences will be immediate for all of us, though many of them will have a limited impact.

If they fail to act, the payroll tax cut will disappear, the Bush era tax cuts will disappear, and some pretty stiff spending cuts that no one seems to want will be enacted.

What does this mean to you? Well based on the median household income you will see about $1000/yr less as a result of the payroll tax hike, about $1500 less as a result of the income tax hike, and a whole lot fewer services.

Interestingly, if the Obama proposal were to pass, a household making the median income would see a tax DECREASE of about $225/yr (payroll and income) rather than the increase of $2500 House Republicans seem to favor in the wake of their inaction. You can see how the fiscal cliff and the Obama proposals would impact your income here.

(Note: The tax calculator is provided by the anti-Keynsian, pro-business group The Tax Foundation. They bear responsibility for any inaccuracies.)

The Failure Option – Part II Electric Boogaloo

The financial impact of failure for household incomes is pretty dire. Considering that inflation adjusted incomes have been flat since 1967 for 80% of the population, losing $2500 for a median income represents a nearly 5% hit in real purchasing power. That’s not going to be good for an economy that is just really starting to emerge from weakness. Add to that increased instability from a potential market panic and Joe 6-pack is going to take a huge hit.

Investors know this. They make lots of money knowing this. And while we haven’t seen an increase in incomes to rival the increase in markets (1967 Dow was 825, 2012 Dow was 13190.84 as of the closing bell on Friday, a nearly 1600% increase), the panic that will ensue due to uncertainty if the fiscal cliff is not avoided will hurt average Americans more than investors, who will certainly lose wealth, but not much standing.

Investors have more ways to make money in the face of a market panic that regular folks don’t, including betting on failure. This kind of risky bet is usually only played by the wealthiest individuals and huge investment houses. It may seem counter-intuitive and to fly in the face of what we consider to be patriotic, but remember, in the church of the almighty dollar, anything goes that makes you rich.

Plenty of folks profited from the pain of the Great Depression and the more recent “Great Recession”. There will be winners if a huge market panic ensues come Jan. 2 as well.

Joe 6-pack won’t be one of them, so don’t even think about it.

I feel confident that a solution won’t be found before the end of the year. The House Republicans don’t seem to have the will to give any ground, and in their disarray they have given their Democratic counterparts some resolve to stand their ground. With 201 incoming votes, it will take just 17 Republicans to pass a Democratic measure…should it reach the floor. That seems like a possible scenario now that people are starting to point to conservative recalcitrance as the problem.

The Senate has already passed a bill, which was rejected by the Tea Party led House in August. The House could take the measure back up if they chose to. I can’t imagine that happening before the end of the year. I just don’t think the votes are there before the end of the year.

This means that a market panic is almost a certainty come Jan. 2. The next Congress convenes the next day. We’ll see what they do, but I’m putting my money on passing something like the Senate proposal and dealing with the spending side later…probably right before the next debt ceiling vote which will need to happen before February of 2013.

In the current climate, I just can’t see this leadership actually…you know…leading.

Oct 24 2011

How Not to Build Confidence

Posted by Steve Ross in snark, State Politics

State Rep. Tony Shipley

There are a lot of things that I’m not an expert in, but one thing is for sure, I am quite skilled in what not to do.

You don’t put foxes with hens, nor do you put wolves with sheep. You also don’t put someone who is under investigation for potential wrongdoing in charge of the committee that oversees the agency he’s been alleged to be doing the wrong with. That is, unless you’re the House GOP Caucus.

Look, I understand it’s gotta be hard to hold back TNGOP. Ya’ll have it all…the House, the Senate, the executive residence. There’s no one that can really stand in your way, including any sense of decency you might have. But seriously, how does this make people feel confident in government?

Short answer, it doesn’t. No one should feel better about anything with this and many other decisions the majority party has made over the past year of absolute power. But the GOP seems completely and totally unconcerned about these problems.

Here’s a little piece of advice that I know you won’t take so I don’t mind giving it: People kinda want government to work, not be more distant, broken or clubby than it already is.

Now look, I understand this position is completely and totally antithetical to your ideology. I understand that you’re more interested in making sure that government is just as inefficient and ineffective as possible so people will lose even more faith in it, so when you pass some law to make it all but go away people will hardly notice.

But allow me to let you in on a little secret here: Folks may say that’s what they want, but it isn’t really.

Since January you guys have committed the classic blunder…overreach. You took the gains you made in the 2010 election as a sign that the people agreed with you, rather than being sick of the other guy. Incumbents don’t normally lose because the challenger is great or right or any of that. Incumbents lose because people have lost faith in them and are looking for answers. If you provide those answers, you’re in for a while. Looking at the unemployment numbers, particularly in areas you guys just picked up, I don’t think you’ll be around all that long.

Nope, the reality is that no matter how cynical or just plain over it people get with government, on some level they still want it to work. They still want it to be there when stuff gets real. They still want some kind of security, other than a personal policeman following them around, to give them the confidence to do what they need to do, whether its investing in their business, getting additional education, or just feeling safe drinking their water and going to the doctor.

So putting a guy who’s under investigation for tampering in a licensure procedure in charge of the committee that has oversight over the licensing board could make people wonder if something might be wrong with this situation, and the overall leadership of the GOP caucus.

Not that this will be enough to make you guys lose you shiny new majority. Nope, that’s gonna take a while, unless you really mess it up. I mean, you’ve already had one scandal thanks to your drunk driving, gun toting former Firearms Chairman. The Voter ID thing is on the verge of being #2 if nonagenarians and their younger friends keep getting turned away at Driver Safety Centers. Thinking you could pass a bill and not fund it, so arrogant. Folks may not be paying attention, but they aren’t stupid.

Truth is, you’ve probably got some more personal scandals in your ranks that former State Senator Paul Stanley can offer some advice on. Repentance is all well and good, but that requirement that you “sin no more” is probably a sight more than you guys can handle. There’s that arrogance popping up again.

But it won’t be me, or any other Democrat that exposes this stuff. You guys will do it to yourselves. That’s the way these things always work out. You’ll do it to yourself, and the confidence that your policies further weakened will cause the people to turn against you.

So whether its devaluing the loss of human life through Tort Reform, making the ballot box harder to get to through Voter ID, any of the other stupid bills y’all passed this year or just schtupping the help or shirking your responsibility, if you’re not doing what you were elected to do, you’ll be gone soon enough.

Which gives me a little peace. At the rate y’all are going, you’ll be lucky to make it through next year.

See also: Aunt B.

Apr 29 2009


Posted by Steve Ross in City of Memphis, National Politics, snark
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The past week has been a cornucopia of news stories, locally, statewide, and nationally. Here’s a short rundown…

Last Tuesday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced he was exploring a run of the 9th District seat currently held by Steve Cohen. The poll released last night (full results here) has been derided by local blogger ThaMATT who, it seems, has no understanding of how polling works. We’re a long way off from the primary. With these two, anything could happen. Herenton could get indicted, Cohen could show his personal knowledge of movies from the 80’s. Anything’s possible.

Yesterday also brought us the Snarlin’ Arlen Specter switch. I got 10 calls and 20 emails in a 5-minute period after this broke. I suppose I’m ought to be excited about this, but I’m not. Arlen is just trying to keep his seat, something politicians do no matter how long they’ve been in, and realizes the political calculus that’s in front of him…he can win a general, but not a primary. Specter’s Progressive Punch score may put him at the top of the heap among the Republicans, but when you’re to the right of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, I have to hold my nose to call you a Democrat. While it may be nice to have a possible filibuster proof majority in the Senate once Franken is seated, my lack of enthusiasm on this development is right up there with writing a check to the Treasury in the midst of a budget surpluss. Further, this stops the party from running a stronger Democratic voice in that race, which means we gave up a long term opportunity for a short term gain. Awesome.

Today marks Obama’s 100th day in office. I find benchmarks like this tiresome, but apparently they’re going to play along. All day the gas bags will be talking about all that has, hasn’t and won’t materialize in his first term, as if the first 100 days are a coffin that somehow encompasses everything that is possible for the next 1361 days. Blech. Save it folks. You’re wasting air I might need later.

Finally, I just want to know who wrote this headline. Whoever it is over there at the CA is entitled to a free drink at their leisure. Despite the unfortunate nature of the story, the headline made me giggle and holler.

All right folks, Let’s be careful out there.

Apr 16 2009

Teabagging – The Music Video

Posted by Steve Ross in National Politics, snark


vibincblog gives you, TEABAGGING the music video.

Lyrics, vocals, video direction, editing, audio mixing and effects all by yours truly. Enjoy.

This was my shot as a DIY 24 hour film. Haven’t done one in years. Started at 7am on 4/15/09 finished at 5am 4/16/09.

Remember, while this is a political song, it’s meant in a lighthearted way. Please take it for what it is…a parody.

May 29 2008

More Sexist Math

Posted by Steve Ross in 2008 Presidentials, snark


The fuzzy screen grab tells a story. The story it tells is one of woe, unhappiness and further illustrates the latent sexism that math embodies. As you can see, by mangling the numbers appropriately, thanks to the brilliant decisions of MI and FL, the national popular vote tally, WHICH HAS ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING ON ANYTHING IN THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION OR THE GENERAL ELECTION, sets up a scenario where either Obama is up by 568k votes, or Hillary is up by as much as 164k. Math is hard, selective math is sexist.

There have been all manner of sexist math examples on the intertoobs the past several days. On the 25th, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD posted this little gem that includes the graph below.

Now, if you just look at this graph, it seems like Hillary, the red bar, is way ahead of Obama in SOMETHING. At this point it doesn’t matter what, just something. Unfortunately, when you look at the scale on the side, you see that there is actually less than 1000 units separating the two.

This is why graphs, as a function of math, are the sexy sexist. They have pretty colors and seem so simple on the face, until you see the gawd awful scale on the side and realize they signify very little.

There is going to be a lot more talk about math, and it’s inherent sexist properties in the coming days. There are people on all sides of the equation that will try to lure you away with seemingly simple scenarios that prove some presumptive presumers personal prophecy of politically potent proportions. It’s all just sexist math. Pay it no mind. Do not hook yourself to it’s lure. No spinner bait is that special.

Ultimately, it, all of it, is for one simple goal. Keeping Pat Buchanan employed. That’s what the lengthy Democratic nomination is all about, that’s the goal. Now as June approaches, goal realized, he can enjoy his vacation, only to come back and scream at us again in August.

Enjoy your Thursday.