Commentary Magazine


Topic: Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs Invests in Crime Reduction

Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

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Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

These investments, known as “social impact bonds” have been used in Britain and Australia, but this would be the first attempt in the U.S. It’s an idea that has upsides for both liberals and conservatives: for liberals, it’s a way to entice private enterprise into supporting public social programs; for conservatives, it’s a way to introduce free market principles into government initiatives. The Goldman Sachs social impact bond in particular sounds like it will bring innovation and accountability to a subject — reducing reincarceration rates — that is lacking in both.

Goldman doesn’t seem to have much to gain or lose financially, other than pocket change (the $2 million at stake is a rounding error compared to the $900 second-quarter profit it reported last month). But the public relations pressure will probably be the biggest incentive.

It’s actually very interesting that Goldman has chosen to invest in reducing recidivism. The free market is a force of miracles that can pull countries out of poverty, tear down walls dividing social classes and allow us to reach new heights of innovation. But it can only reduce social problems to a point; individual choice still exists, and so crime, poverty and homelessness will always remain in some capacity. Is it possible that the recidivism rate can’t be lowered much more than it already has been? There is already a significant cost to choosing a criminal lifestyle. If someone is determined to continue along that path, can any amount of therapy or job training actually reform them? That’s what this social impact bond initiative seems meant to address. And it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, Goldman’s program will have.

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Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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Pipe Down — No, No, Only You Guys

The prospect of a Democratic wipe-out and the engagement, politically and financially, of aggrieved conservatives have freaked out liberals. So they resort to this sort of stunt:

Several prominent Democratic politicians plan to announce a new coalition Monday aimed at pressuring major companies to foreswear using corporate money on political campaigns.

The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, spearheaded by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D), aims to secure promises from major corporations to fully disclose any political spending and, ideally, to avoid spending corporate money directly on elections.

Who is paying for the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS)? Hmm. Maybe we should demand that the group disclose its donor lists as a sign of good faith. We have a partial list:

Other Democrats joining de Blasio in the coalition are Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. MoveOn.org and other grass-roots political groups are also participating, officials said.

But who is putting up the money? I mean, is this just another George Soros front group?

Moreover, the hypocrisy is staggering. They want only certain kinds of speech — and for certain speakers to go quiet:

The new coalition springs out of a successful effort by de Blasio, who serves as a trustee for New York City’s largest pension fund, to convince Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley to adopt policies against spending money from their general treasuries in elections. The firms will still run their own political-action committees, which are operated independently, officials said.

What about labor unions? Soros? What about political interests and advocacy groups that are incorporated and, therefore, fall under the ambit of the bogeyman Citizens United?

The message of the anti-free-speech crowd is remarkably constant: they simply want their political opponents to be silenced. But, in a way, this latest gambit undermines their advocacy in Congress and in the courts, where they seek to use the power of the state to limit political speech. Why should government be enlisted to shut down political speech? It seems as though the First Amendment rights of association and free speech can be employed by groups such as CAPS in the court of public opinion, however hypocritically. That does sort of prove the point of the defenders of Citizens United, doesn’t it?

The prospect of a Democratic wipe-out and the engagement, politically and financially, of aggrieved conservatives have freaked out liberals. So they resort to this sort of stunt:

Several prominent Democratic politicians plan to announce a new coalition Monday aimed at pressuring major companies to foreswear using corporate money on political campaigns.

The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, spearheaded by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D), aims to secure promises from major corporations to fully disclose any political spending and, ideally, to avoid spending corporate money directly on elections.

Who is paying for the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS)? Hmm. Maybe we should demand that the group disclose its donor lists as a sign of good faith. We have a partial list:

Other Democrats joining de Blasio in the coalition are Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. MoveOn.org and other grass-roots political groups are also participating, officials said.

But who is putting up the money? I mean, is this just another George Soros front group?

Moreover, the hypocrisy is staggering. They want only certain kinds of speech — and for certain speakers to go quiet:

The new coalition springs out of a successful effort by de Blasio, who serves as a trustee for New York City’s largest pension fund, to convince Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley to adopt policies against spending money from their general treasuries in elections. The firms will still run their own political-action committees, which are operated independently, officials said.

What about labor unions? Soros? What about political interests and advocacy groups that are incorporated and, therefore, fall under the ambit of the bogeyman Citizens United?

The message of the anti-free-speech crowd is remarkably constant: they simply want their political opponents to be silenced. But, in a way, this latest gambit undermines their advocacy in Congress and in the courts, where they seek to use the power of the state to limit political speech. Why should government be enlisted to shut down political speech? It seems as though the First Amendment rights of association and free speech can be employed by groups such as CAPS in the court of public opinion, however hypocritically. That does sort of prove the point of the defenders of Citizens United, doesn’t it?

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Stop the Presses! John Boehner Sleeps, Eats, and Breathes

If you’d like to know why the New York Times – once an order of magnitude above any other paper in the country — is in such trouble today, look no further than today’s front-page story on John Boehner, the House minority leader. Appearing above the fold on page one, it fills up most of a page inside.

It seems — are you sitting down? — as though John Boehner deals with lobbyists. The shock! The horror! After reporting on a meeting with lobbyists regarding the bank-regulations bill that passed earlier this year, for instance, the article reads:

That sort of alliance — they won a few skirmishes, though they lost the war on the regulatory bill — is business as usual for Mr. Boehner, the House minority leader and would-be speaker if Republicans win the House in November. He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

It is, of course, equally business as usual for all congressional leaders, Republican and Democrat alike. Members of Congress deal with lobbyists every day of their professional lives, striking alliances, raising money, seeking to influence public opinion and thus win votes in Congress. The Times, in effect, is accusing Mr. Boehner of practicing politics.

The story is astonishingly thin. Are his ties to lobbyists “especially tight”? Who knows? The Times gives no examples whatever of the dealings of other Congressional leaders with lobbyists. The Times writes, “From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Boehner flew at least 45 times, often with his wife, Debbie, on corporate jets provided by companies including R. J. Reynolds. (As required, Mr. Boehner reimbursed part of the costs.)” So he didn’t do anything against House rules, apparently. But how does his aeronautical hitchhiking compare with, say, that of Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, or Sander Levin, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee? The Times doesn’t bother to say, which raises the suspicion that Democratic leaders like flying around in private jets about as much as Republican ones do. To paraphrase Mrs. August Belmont, who, a century ago, was talking about private railroad cars, “A private jet is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately.”

The lede in the online edition of the story gives the game away. “As Democrats try to cast John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, as the face of the Republican Party, his ties to lobbyists are under attack.” Of course, under House rules, the Speaker is nearly all-powerful and the minority party, and thus its leader, have almost no power. They are nearly irrelevant to the legislative process in the House. So it’s going to be up-hill work trying to make Boehner into the Republican Nancy Pelosi.

This article, which alleges no wrongdoing and gives no comparisons, is simply an attempt to further the Democrats’ plan to demonize Boehner. It is water carrying, plain and simple, proving only that the Times’s ties with the Democratic Party are especially tight.

If you’d like to know why the New York Times – once an order of magnitude above any other paper in the country — is in such trouble today, look no further than today’s front-page story on John Boehner, the House minority leader. Appearing above the fold on page one, it fills up most of a page inside.

It seems — are you sitting down? — as though John Boehner deals with lobbyists. The shock! The horror! After reporting on a meeting with lobbyists regarding the bank-regulations bill that passed earlier this year, for instance, the article reads:

That sort of alliance — they won a few skirmishes, though they lost the war on the regulatory bill — is business as usual for Mr. Boehner, the House minority leader and would-be speaker if Republicans win the House in November. He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

It is, of course, equally business as usual for all congressional leaders, Republican and Democrat alike. Members of Congress deal with lobbyists every day of their professional lives, striking alliances, raising money, seeking to influence public opinion and thus win votes in Congress. The Times, in effect, is accusing Mr. Boehner of practicing politics.

The story is astonishingly thin. Are his ties to lobbyists “especially tight”? Who knows? The Times gives no examples whatever of the dealings of other Congressional leaders with lobbyists. The Times writes, “From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Boehner flew at least 45 times, often with his wife, Debbie, on corporate jets provided by companies including R. J. Reynolds. (As required, Mr. Boehner reimbursed part of the costs.)” So he didn’t do anything against House rules, apparently. But how does his aeronautical hitchhiking compare with, say, that of Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader, or Sander Levin, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee? The Times doesn’t bother to say, which raises the suspicion that Democratic leaders like flying around in private jets about as much as Republican ones do. To paraphrase Mrs. August Belmont, who, a century ago, was talking about private railroad cars, “A private jet is not an acquired taste. One takes to it immediately.”

The lede in the online edition of the story gives the game away. “As Democrats try to cast John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, as the face of the Republican Party, his ties to lobbyists are under attack.” Of course, under House rules, the Speaker is nearly all-powerful and the minority party, and thus its leader, have almost no power. They are nearly irrelevant to the legislative process in the House. So it’s going to be up-hill work trying to make Boehner into the Republican Nancy Pelosi.

This article, which alleges no wrongdoing and gives no comparisons, is simply an attempt to further the Democrats’ plan to demonize Boehner. It is water carrying, plain and simple, proving only that the Times’s ties with the Democratic Party are especially tight.

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Another Democrat Takes Aim at Obama

From the Associated Press:

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth lashed out at President Barack Obama’s economic team Thursday, saying they show more concern for Wall Street than average Americans in a blunt election-year assessment from an Obama loyalist frustrated by a tepid economic recovery. … “I’m not real happy with our economic team in the White House,” Yarmuth said. “They think it’s more important that Goldman Sachs make money than that you make money. And that’s where we’ve got to change the attitude of this country.”

Afterward, Yarmuth lamented “a sense of floundering and indecisiveness” by Obama’s administration in trying to revitalize the economy from a deep recession causing stubbornly high unemployment.

“I think we have an opportunity to really regain the confidence of the American people if we show here’s where we’re going to go and why,” Yarmuth said in an interview. “I don’t think the administration’s done that yet.”

More and more Democrats are distancing themselves from President Obama. And why not? Obama’s agenda, after all, will cost a lot of them their jobs.

From the Associated Press:

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth lashed out at President Barack Obama’s economic team Thursday, saying they show more concern for Wall Street than average Americans in a blunt election-year assessment from an Obama loyalist frustrated by a tepid economic recovery. … “I’m not real happy with our economic team in the White House,” Yarmuth said. “They think it’s more important that Goldman Sachs make money than that you make money. And that’s where we’ve got to change the attitude of this country.”

Afterward, Yarmuth lamented “a sense of floundering and indecisiveness” by Obama’s administration in trying to revitalize the economy from a deep recession causing stubbornly high unemployment.

“I think we have an opportunity to really regain the confidence of the American people if we show here’s where we’re going to go and why,” Yarmuth said in an interview. “I don’t think the administration’s done that yet.”

More and more Democrats are distancing themselves from President Obama. And why not? Obama’s agenda, after all, will cost a lot of them their jobs.

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Congressional Hypocrisy Watch

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

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The Obama Administration Bullies Business Again

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

Obama and congressional Democrats have become accustomed to badgering, bullying, and berating business. They see nothing wrong with suing and excoriating Goldman Sachs for shorting the housing market. They thought it was fine to force AIG to take away bonuses from executives who were contractually entitled to receive them. And now this:

BP faced demands Tuesday that it withhold its first-quarter dividend, which it committed to pay in April, in the early days of the Deepwater Horizon crisis. A confirmation of the payment date Tuesday drew a letter of condemnation from 32 members of Congress. … The dilemma comes as BP faces tremendous heat over the issue. Last week, President Barack Obama warned the company against “nickel and diming” people affected by the spill and said BP had “moral and legal obligations” to Gulf Coast residents that may supersede its obligations to shareholders.

You do wonder whether any of these politicians understand that stock price reflects expected cash flow — including dividends. Are they trying to crash BP’s stock? Surely investors will start dumping the stock if the dividend is taken away.

The larger point, however, is this: what gives lawmakers the right to boss around a private company (one that never took a bailout) and pull the rug out from shareholders, who are entitled to and may be financial dependent on dividend checks? It’s not as if there were any economic justification for nixing the dividend:

Today, analysts say there is no reason from a business standpoint for the company to cut the dividend, as few people are questioning BP’s financial strength despite the crisis brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If they do something with the dividend, they’re not doing it for financial reasons … it’s because of the political battle of wills,” said [former BP CEO Bob] Morton.

It is one more instance of liberals attempting  to blur the distinction between the public and private and to force businesses to make economic decisions based on political considerations. Politicians with little economic expertise and no respect for the rule of law are systematically distorting business decisions and thereby forcing executives to become political operatives and lobbying gurus rather than expert wealth creators. It is what comes from electing people with zero experience in or respect for profiting-making ventures.

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Daniel Krauthammer on the Senate and Goldman Sachs

Daniel Krauthammer has a very intelligent and enlightening piece over at NRO on the Senate and Goldman Sachs, why what financial institutions do is quite different from what every other sector of the economy does, and how silly and misinformed Congress, and particularly people like Carl Levin, are in discussing this whole matter. Congress is guilty of “moral grandstanding and scapegoating” rather than meaningful reform, according to Krauthammer. That strikes me as quite right — and par for the course. But take a look for yourself.

Daniel Krauthammer has a very intelligent and enlightening piece over at NRO on the Senate and Goldman Sachs, why what financial institutions do is quite different from what every other sector of the economy does, and how silly and misinformed Congress, and particularly people like Carl Levin, are in discussing this whole matter. Congress is guilty of “moral grandstanding and scapegoating” rather than meaningful reform, according to Krauthammer. That strikes me as quite right — and par for the course. But take a look for yourself.

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Governors Echo GOP: What About Jobs?

This report suggests that the Republicans are going to get some help in framing the 2010 election from governors — some of whom are Democrats:

Frustrated with the pace of job-creation in Washington, the nation’s governors are putting homegrown employment programs into place, and calling on Congress to refocus on the issue.

“If I have 100 conversations with people, 95 of them will be about jobs and none of them will be about cap-and-trade and none of them will be about bank reform,” said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a conservative Democrat, in an interview.

As Congressional lawmakers head toward 2010 midterm elections, polls indicate they are facing historic levels of public discontent, not least of which is a 9.7% unemployment rate that hasn’t budged for the past three months. About a half-dozen federal jobs bills have been mired in Congress while Democrats and Republicans wrangled over health care, the financial industry, energy and immigration legislation.

The Republicans have been hammering Obama and the Democratic leadership for some time about their misplaced priorities. They spent over a year and a huge amount of political capital on ObamaCare, which voters still overwhelmingly dislike. (Rasmussen reports that “52% say the plan will be bad for America, a view that went up slightly after the plan became law and has now held steady for five weeks. Thirty-eight percent (38%) view the plan as good for the country. … Over the past five weeks since Congress passed the measure, support for repeal has remained in a very narrow range from a low of 54% to a high of 58%.”) And now the summer will be spent on a Supreme Court confirmation and stalemates over immigration reform and cap-and-trade. Meanwhile, the Goldman Sachs case and financial regulation are proving perhaps not as potent in rallying populist fury as the Democrats hoped.

So it likely doesn’t help the Democrats to have their own party official echoing the Republican line, namely that politicians have spent over a year ignoring what voters care most about. Democratic governors, many of whom are facing tough races, are more than happy to point the finger at Washington, and in that regard, they’ll get no argument from Republicans. For Democrats, it is one more disagreeable development in an election year that seems to be going from bad to worse.

This report suggests that the Republicans are going to get some help in framing the 2010 election from governors — some of whom are Democrats:

Frustrated with the pace of job-creation in Washington, the nation’s governors are putting homegrown employment programs into place, and calling on Congress to refocus on the issue.

“If I have 100 conversations with people, 95 of them will be about jobs and none of them will be about cap-and-trade and none of them will be about bank reform,” said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a conservative Democrat, in an interview.

As Congressional lawmakers head toward 2010 midterm elections, polls indicate they are facing historic levels of public discontent, not least of which is a 9.7% unemployment rate that hasn’t budged for the past three months. About a half-dozen federal jobs bills have been mired in Congress while Democrats and Republicans wrangled over health care, the financial industry, energy and immigration legislation.

The Republicans have been hammering Obama and the Democratic leadership for some time about their misplaced priorities. They spent over a year and a huge amount of political capital on ObamaCare, which voters still overwhelmingly dislike. (Rasmussen reports that “52% say the plan will be bad for America, a view that went up slightly after the plan became law and has now held steady for five weeks. Thirty-eight percent (38%) view the plan as good for the country. … Over the past five weeks since Congress passed the measure, support for repeal has remained in a very narrow range from a low of 54% to a high of 58%.”) And now the summer will be spent on a Supreme Court confirmation and stalemates over immigration reform and cap-and-trade. Meanwhile, the Goldman Sachs case and financial regulation are proving perhaps not as potent in rallying populist fury as the Democrats hoped.

So it likely doesn’t help the Democrats to have their own party official echoing the Republican line, namely that politicians have spent over a year ignoring what voters care most about. Democratic governors, many of whom are facing tough races, are more than happy to point the finger at Washington, and in that regard, they’ll get no argument from Republicans. For Democrats, it is one more disagreeable development in an election year that seems to be going from bad to worse.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

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Showboating Against Wall Street Greed

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject — as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject — as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

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RE: Bullying in the Name of Financial Regulation

A reader calls my attention to Paul Krugman’s column. Krugman gets his share of criticism around here, so it’s only fair to point out when, as the reader put, he “actually makes sense.”

He gets points by conceding the point I raised: “When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn’t amount to wrongdoing.” I don’t concede it’s all that ugly, but for Krugman, that’s a step away from the populist drooling that has transfixed most of the media.

He then goes on to make a helpful suggestion:

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it’s a system that financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn’t fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

This at least seems to be an area worth exploring in greater depth. But as Krugman points out, the current legislation doesn’t do much about this issue. (“The only provision that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating agencies if they engaged in ‘knowing or reckless failure’ to do the right thing. But that surely isn’t enough, given the money at stake — and the fact that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.”)

One problem with huge reform efforts is that they usually focus on the wrong problem. In this case, the frenzy to eliminate risk — an impossibility if one wants to preserve entrepreneurial dynamism — has obscured more productive activities, including reduction or elimination of conflicts of interest, which is a worthy legislation goal. But “increasing rating companies’ independence” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “going after Wall Street greed.” So we never quite get around to it.

A reader calls my attention to Paul Krugman’s column. Krugman gets his share of criticism around here, so it’s only fair to point out when, as the reader put, he “actually makes sense.”

He gets points by conceding the point I raised: “When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn’t amount to wrongdoing.” I don’t concede it’s all that ugly, but for Krugman, that’s a step away from the populist drooling that has transfixed most of the media.

He then goes on to make a helpful suggestion:

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it’s a system that financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn’t fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

This at least seems to be an area worth exploring in greater depth. But as Krugman points out, the current legislation doesn’t do much about this issue. (“The only provision that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating agencies if they engaged in ‘knowing or reckless failure’ to do the right thing. But that surely isn’t enough, given the money at stake — and the fact that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.”)

One problem with huge reform efforts is that they usually focus on the wrong problem. In this case, the frenzy to eliminate risk — an impossibility if one wants to preserve entrepreneurial dynamism — has obscured more productive activities, including reduction or elimination of conflicts of interest, which is a worthy legislation goal. But “increasing rating companies’ independence” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “going after Wall Street greed.” So we never quite get around to it.

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Bullying in the Name of Financial Reform

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released —

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people —

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released —

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people —

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

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Obama’s Economic Policy: Crony Capitalism

The so-called financial-reform bills now working their ways through each house of Congress are, like the health-care-reform bill before them, not about reform at all. They do not reform anything. Instead, they make the federal government the major player in a major industry. Just as the health-care-reform bill will transform private insurance companies into the equivalent of public utilities, whose every major decision needs government approval and whose returns on capital are more or less guaranteed, these bills would do the same for big banks and other financial institutions.

President Obama gave a typical speech yesterday in the same room where, a 140 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a most untypical speech. Well, perhaps typical for Lincoln: eloquent, tightly reasoned, profound, and consequential in its effect. (As an aside, I have spoken in the Great Hall of Cooper Union myself and had a powerful feeling that I was standing upon holy ground while I did so; Obama, I suspect, felt he was only adding to its sanctity.) Obama’s speech was typical in that it set up straw men, fearlessly knocked them down, assigned blame without evidence, told falsehoods while demanding that others stop lying, and asked for discussion as long as every discussant agrees with him. Everyone else and every other opinion is “illegitimate.”

Wall Street was hardly blameless regarding the financial crisis of 2008 and reforms are necessary to prevent the same things from happening again. Niall Ferguson and Ted Forstmann explain what’s needed in today’s Wall Street Journal. (In a nutshell: moving derivatives trading from back rooms to exchanges and limiting the leverage that banks can use.)  The Senate bill wouldn’t do that. Instead it would move most derivatives trading to exchanges but allow the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to decide what derivatives can still be traded over the counter. Does anyone see there a hugely empowered federal official (not to mention a golden lobbying opportunity for banks and members of Congress alike)? Is a back room at the CFTC an improvement over a back room at Goldman Sachs?

And Fannie and Freddie? They were at the heart of the mortgage meltdown and political piggy banks that were so badly (and corruptly) regulated that they are likely to cost the taxpayers $400 billion when all is said and done. But neither of these bills even mentions them. Fannie and Freddie are classic examples of crony capitalism, where government and business are in bed together. Obama wants to expand that disastrous model to the likes of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

It is the business of business to take risk and seek profit. It is the business of government to regulate business to ensure that the public interest is not put at risk. That’s exactly what government failed to do before 2008. As Judge Richard Posner put it in his most recent book, The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy, “Calling bankers greedy for taking advantage of profit opportunities created by unsound government policies is like calling rich people greedy for allowing Medicare to reimburse their medical bills.”

The Obama administration’s ruthless pursuit of ever greater concentration of power in Washington — and calling it reform — just keeps getting scarier.

The so-called financial-reform bills now working their ways through each house of Congress are, like the health-care-reform bill before them, not about reform at all. They do not reform anything. Instead, they make the federal government the major player in a major industry. Just as the health-care-reform bill will transform private insurance companies into the equivalent of public utilities, whose every major decision needs government approval and whose returns on capital are more or less guaranteed, these bills would do the same for big banks and other financial institutions.

President Obama gave a typical speech yesterday in the same room where, a 140 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a most untypical speech. Well, perhaps typical for Lincoln: eloquent, tightly reasoned, profound, and consequential in its effect. (As an aside, I have spoken in the Great Hall of Cooper Union myself and had a powerful feeling that I was standing upon holy ground while I did so; Obama, I suspect, felt he was only adding to its sanctity.) Obama’s speech was typical in that it set up straw men, fearlessly knocked them down, assigned blame without evidence, told falsehoods while demanding that others stop lying, and asked for discussion as long as every discussant agrees with him. Everyone else and every other opinion is “illegitimate.”

Wall Street was hardly blameless regarding the financial crisis of 2008 and reforms are necessary to prevent the same things from happening again. Niall Ferguson and Ted Forstmann explain what’s needed in today’s Wall Street Journal. (In a nutshell: moving derivatives trading from back rooms to exchanges and limiting the leverage that banks can use.)  The Senate bill wouldn’t do that. Instead it would move most derivatives trading to exchanges but allow the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to decide what derivatives can still be traded over the counter. Does anyone see there a hugely empowered federal official (not to mention a golden lobbying opportunity for banks and members of Congress alike)? Is a back room at the CFTC an improvement over a back room at Goldman Sachs?

And Fannie and Freddie? They were at the heart of the mortgage meltdown and political piggy banks that were so badly (and corruptly) regulated that they are likely to cost the taxpayers $400 billion when all is said and done. But neither of these bills even mentions them. Fannie and Freddie are classic examples of crony capitalism, where government and business are in bed together. Obama wants to expand that disastrous model to the likes of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

It is the business of business to take risk and seek profit. It is the business of government to regulate business to ensure that the public interest is not put at risk. That’s exactly what government failed to do before 2008. As Judge Richard Posner put it in his most recent book, The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy, “Calling bankers greedy for taking advantage of profit opportunities created by unsound government policies is like calling rich people greedy for allowing Medicare to reimburse their medical bills.”

The Obama administration’s ruthless pursuit of ever greater concentration of power in Washington — and calling it reform — just keeps getting scarier.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

Cleaning up Undersecretary Michele Flournoy’s mess (“Military force is an option of last resort. It’s off the table for now”), a Pentagon spokesman: “We are not taking any options off the table as we pursue the pressure and engagement tracks. … The president always has at his disposal a full array of options, including use of the military … It is clearly not our preferred course of action but it has never been, nor is it now, off the table.” Never underestimate how incompetent this crew is.

Is the Goldman Sachs case a big mess? “The testimony of a former Paulson & Co official could undercut the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. The former Paulson lieutenant, Paolo Pellegrini, testified that he told ACA Management, the main investor in a Goldman mortgage-securities transaction, that Paulson intended to bet against—or short—the portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would contradict the SEC’s claim that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the mortgage securities would fail and weaken charges that Goldman misled investors by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position.”

Did the White House mess with the SEC? “President Barack Obama is brushing off suggestions that the White House influenced the timing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs. In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNBC, Obama said the White House had nothing to do with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to file fraud charges Friday against Goldman Sachs.” It was just a grand coincidence, I suppose.

Too messy for Blanche Lincoln: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln, under fire for keeping a $4,500 contribution from Goldman Sachs’s political action committee, has canceled a fundraising lunch with Goldman executives that was scheduled for Monday and would have netted many times that amount for the Arkansas Senator’s reelection campaign.”

Lots of people think the country is a mess: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters now say the nation is heading down the wrong track, down slightly from last week but just one point above the lowest level of pessimism measured since last October.”

Robert Gates is in charge of keeping the messes to a minimum: “That new administration’s rapidly getting old, but Gates continues to serve, struggling to limit the damage done to our national defense. Recently, he fought to keep our new nuclear-giveaway treaty with Russia within tolerable bounds. That treaty’s bad — but without Gates it would have been worse. Now we know that he was also pushing on Iran. Last week, somebody (not Gates) leaked a January memo the SecDef sent to the White House. The message? We need to prepare for all contingencies regarding Iran. Now.”

The ongoing Massa ethics mess: “The top members on the House ethics committee interviewed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon – just hours after the ethics panel created a special subcommittee to investigate sexual harassment allegations surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).”

That mess widens: “The FBI is investigating the case of former Rep. Eric Massa, accused by his onetime male staff members of sexual harassment.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Oops — maybe we shouldn’t have pulled our missile defenses out of the Czech Republic and Poland. “The stated rationale at the time was: Since the sites were intended to defend America and our allies from Iranian missiles, and our intelligence estimated that the Iranians were a long way from fielding such missiles, the sites were unnecessary. Now, this was a transparently flimsy excuse even at the time. … But the story gets even fishier. A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015.”

Oops – Gallup delivers some bad news to the Obami (but then again, they say they don’t look at polls): “President Barack Obama averaged 48.8% job approval for his fifth quarter in office, spanning Jan. 20-April 19 Gallup Daily tracking. That is the lowest of his presidency to date, though not appreciably worse than his 50.8% fourth quarter average. … Obama’s latest quarterly score of 48.8% is below average by historical standards, ranking in the 35th percentile of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has data, dating to 1945. The average historical quarterly approval average is 54%. Additionally, Obama’s latest quarterly average does not compare favorably to other elected presidents’ averages at similar points in their presidencies.”

Oops — message confusion: “Wall Street provided three of Obama’s seven biggest sources of contributors for his presidential bid. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs employees and family members gave him $994,795, Citigroup Inc. $701,290, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. $695,132.”

Oops — for those who vouched for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials: “Israel’s defense minister expressed concern Monday about deteriorating relations with the United States and warned that ‘the growing alienation’ with President Obama’s administration ‘is not a good thing for the state of Israel.’ … As for reports that the Obama administration might try to impose some sort of peace plan on the Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu said, ‘I don’t believe anyone will seriously think you can impose peace. Peace has to come from the parties sitting down with each other and resolving their differences.'”

Oops — apparently no one really likes Charlie Crist. From Public Policy Polling: “It’s his fall with Republicans that gets all the attention, but Charlie Crist’s poll numbers have declined almost as badly with Democrats and independents over the last year as they have within his own party. And that makes me doubt he would be successful in an independent Senate bid even if he did decide to make a run for it.”

Oops — Bill Clinton’s cover is blown. “Mr. Clinton’s opposition to ‘demonizing the government’ would be more credible had he been heard from on the subject during the first eight years after he left office—when, for example, Hollywood demonized George W. Bush by releasing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ or when Mr. Clinton’s own former Vice President railed against the man who beat him in 2000: ‘He betrayed this country!’ Instead, Mr. Clinton’s effort to exploit the memory of Oklahoma City looks like a partisan cheap shot. In his speech last week, the former President observed that, unlike the Boston Tea Party, ‘this fight is about taxation by duly, honestly elected representatives that you don’t happen to agree with, that you can vote out at the next election.’ Our guess is that the next election is what he’s really afraid of.”

Oops — an inconvenient truth for climate-change fanatics: “Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans now believe there is a significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, up seven points from early December just after the so-called ‘Climategate’ scandal involving doctored or deliberately undisclosed scientific evidence first broke.”

Oops– a crack in the Eric Holder stonewall: “For nearly a year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been investigating the Department of Justice’s voluntary dismissal of a voter intimidation suit against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. On Friday morning of this week, the commission will conduct a public hearing on the matter. A number of witnesses are expected to testify concerning the incident that gave rise to DOJ’s lawsuit. A second hearing will likely take place in May to adduce additional evidence from the DOJ. The commission will issue a report on its findings to the president and Congress in the next few months.”

Oops — maybe we shouldn’t have pulled our missile defenses out of the Czech Republic and Poland. “The stated rationale at the time was: Since the sites were intended to defend America and our allies from Iranian missiles, and our intelligence estimated that the Iranians were a long way from fielding such missiles, the sites were unnecessary. Now, this was a transparently flimsy excuse even at the time. … But the story gets even fishier. A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015.”

Oops – Gallup delivers some bad news to the Obami (but then again, they say they don’t look at polls): “President Barack Obama averaged 48.8% job approval for his fifth quarter in office, spanning Jan. 20-April 19 Gallup Daily tracking. That is the lowest of his presidency to date, though not appreciably worse than his 50.8% fourth quarter average. … Obama’s latest quarterly score of 48.8% is below average by historical standards, ranking in the 35th percentile of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has data, dating to 1945. The average historical quarterly approval average is 54%. Additionally, Obama’s latest quarterly average does not compare favorably to other elected presidents’ averages at similar points in their presidencies.”

Oops — message confusion: “Wall Street provided three of Obama’s seven biggest sources of contributors for his presidential bid. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs employees and family members gave him $994,795, Citigroup Inc. $701,290, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. $695,132.”

Oops — for those who vouched for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials: “Israel’s defense minister expressed concern Monday about deteriorating relations with the United States and warned that ‘the growing alienation’ with President Obama’s administration ‘is not a good thing for the state of Israel.’ … As for reports that the Obama administration might try to impose some sort of peace plan on the Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu said, ‘I don’t believe anyone will seriously think you can impose peace. Peace has to come from the parties sitting down with each other and resolving their differences.'”

Oops — apparently no one really likes Charlie Crist. From Public Policy Polling: “It’s his fall with Republicans that gets all the attention, but Charlie Crist’s poll numbers have declined almost as badly with Democrats and independents over the last year as they have within his own party. And that makes me doubt he would be successful in an independent Senate bid even if he did decide to make a run for it.”

Oops — Bill Clinton’s cover is blown. “Mr. Clinton’s opposition to ‘demonizing the government’ would be more credible had he been heard from on the subject during the first eight years after he left office—when, for example, Hollywood demonized George W. Bush by releasing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ or when Mr. Clinton’s own former Vice President railed against the man who beat him in 2000: ‘He betrayed this country!’ Instead, Mr. Clinton’s effort to exploit the memory of Oklahoma City looks like a partisan cheap shot. In his speech last week, the former President observed that, unlike the Boston Tea Party, ‘this fight is about taxation by duly, honestly elected representatives that you don’t happen to agree with, that you can vote out at the next election.’ Our guess is that the next election is what he’s really afraid of.”

Oops — an inconvenient truth for climate-change fanatics: “Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans now believe there is a significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, up seven points from early December just after the so-called ‘Climategate’ scandal involving doctored or deliberately undisclosed scientific evidence first broke.”

Oops– a crack in the Eric Holder stonewall: “For nearly a year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been investigating the Department of Justice’s voluntary dismissal of a voter intimidation suit against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. On Friday morning of this week, the commission will conduct a public hearing on the matter. A number of witnesses are expected to testify concerning the incident that gave rise to DOJ’s lawsuit. A second hearing will likely take place in May to adduce additional evidence from the DOJ. The commission will issue a report on its findings to the president and Congress in the next few months.”

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Conflict — What Conflict?

Some might find it off-putting that the “most ethical administration ever” (or is that the Congress?) would see its White House counsel Greg Craig representing the administration’s juiciest and most fortuitous target, Goldman Sachs. How can this happen? Politico reports:

“A former White House employee cannot appear before any unit of the Executive Office of the President on behalf of any client for 2 years—one year under federal law and another year under the pledge pursuant to the January 2009 ethics E0,” said a White House official.

The official also said that the White House had no contact with the SEC on the Goldman Sachs case. “The SEC by law is an independent agency that does not coordinate with the White House any part of their enforcement actions.”

Well how do we know there was no coordination? In fact, the entire Goldman strategy is that this was a political set-up from the very beginning:

An attempt to discredit the Securities and Exchange Commission by painting the case as tainted by politics because it was announced just as President Barack Obama was ramping up his push for financial regulatory reform, including a planned trip to New York on Thursday.

“The charges were brought in a manner calculated to achieve maximum impact at point of penetration,” a Goldman executive said.

Among the points Greg Palm, co-general counsel, plans to emphasize on the call is “how out of the ordinary the process was with the SEC,” the executive said. The SEC usually gives firms a chance to settle such charges before they are made public. Goldman executives say they had no such chance, and learned about the filing while watching CNBC.

So if the White House was meddling, or doing so with intermediaries, and this is central to Goldman’s defense, what is Craig doing litigating against the U.S. government?

Some might find it off-putting that the “most ethical administration ever” (or is that the Congress?) would see its White House counsel Greg Craig representing the administration’s juiciest and most fortuitous target, Goldman Sachs. How can this happen? Politico reports:

“A former White House employee cannot appear before any unit of the Executive Office of the President on behalf of any client for 2 years—one year under federal law and another year under the pledge pursuant to the January 2009 ethics E0,” said a White House official.

The official also said that the White House had no contact with the SEC on the Goldman Sachs case. “The SEC by law is an independent agency that does not coordinate with the White House any part of their enforcement actions.”

Well how do we know there was no coordination? In fact, the entire Goldman strategy is that this was a political set-up from the very beginning:

An attempt to discredit the Securities and Exchange Commission by painting the case as tainted by politics because it was announced just as President Barack Obama was ramping up his push for financial regulatory reform, including a planned trip to New York on Thursday.

“The charges were brought in a manner calculated to achieve maximum impact at point of penetration,” a Goldman executive said.

Among the points Greg Palm, co-general counsel, plans to emphasize on the call is “how out of the ordinary the process was with the SEC,” the executive said. The SEC usually gives firms a chance to settle such charges before they are made public. Goldman executives say they had no such chance, and learned about the filing while watching CNBC.

So if the White House was meddling, or doing so with intermediaries, and this is central to Goldman’s defense, what is Craig doing litigating against the U.S. government?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

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