Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘stimulus package

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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6 Mistakes That Cost Democrats Dearly?

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Via @zunguzungu, here’s the list from Paul Jay of the Real News Network:

6. Not investigating Bush and Cheney for criminal actions while in office.
5. Bailing out bankers and not the banking system.
4. Not using the GM/Chrysler bailout as an opportunity to build a green economy.
3. Not defending the public option for health care reform.
2. Not bringing a promised new mindset to US foreign policy.
1. Allowing Republicans to rebrand themselves as populist behind the skirts of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

As I mentioned in the strikes and gutters post I tend to think that most of these didn’t “cost” Democrats dearly in the sense that they could have won the midterms if they’d done all six. The primal mistake is still #0: the too-small stimulus.

That said I wish they’d done all of these, because they were the right things to do and because the tiny window 2009-2010 was the best chance we’ll have for a good while. #6 diminishes the country and arguably makes Obama a party to Bush’s crimes; #5 and #4 were huge missed opportunities that will cost the country dearly in the long run; #3 was a big mistake in its own right as well as part of the larger health-care-reform supermistake that offset most concrete improvements in the health care system to 2014 and beyond; #1 would probably have helped us in some important races at the margins of the wave (though the centrality of Palin and the Tea Party definitely saved us elsewhere).

Only #2 seems truly irrelevant to the midterms. People don’t care that the U.S. has spent the last few decades waging a endless series of little wars and open-ended occupations; they seem to like it that way. The most terrible thing about contemporary U.S. politics is that Broder’s atrocious plan to win re-election by starting a war with Iran would actually work.

Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs

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Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you. It was obviously a tough night for Democrats but on some level it was always going to be—with unemployment at 9.6% and millions of people underwater on their mortgages the Democrats were doomed to lose and lose big. On this the stimulus really was the original sin—if it had been bigger and better-targeted the economic situation could have been better, but it wasn’t and here we are. Unlike 2000 and 2004 I think this election stings, but it doesn’t hurt; a big loss like this has been baked in the cake for a while.

Remember that as the pundits play bad political commentary bingo all month.

As I mentioned last night, overs beat the unders, which means my more optimistic predictions were 2/3 wrong: Republicans overshot the House predictions and Sestak and Giannoulias both lost their close races in PA and IL. But I was right that young people can’t be trusted to vote even when marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Cynicism wins again! I’ll remember that for next time.

I was on Twitter for most of the night last night and most of my observations about last night have already been made there. A few highlights from the night:

* Who could have predicted: Democrats are already playing down the notion that they’ll get much done in a lame duck session. They’d rather punt to January particularly the big issues, like tax cuts. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Don’t even bother. On taxes, the outline of a compromise is there, having been floated by Vice President Biden: the rates might stay in place for a larger number of wealthier Americans. The Estate Tax, which jumps up to 55% in January, will probably be restored at a lower rate. Capital gains taxes will also be higher, but not as high as they’re slated to be. Supporters of the START treaty are very worried. Gee, maybe Obama shouldn’t have appealed DADT after all.

* Last night’s big Dem winner: implausibly, Harry Reid. Second place (of a sort): Howard Dean, whose entire happy legacy as DNC chair was wiped out in one fell swoop last night—and then some. Fire Kaine, bring Dean back.

* Last night’s big Republican losers: the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin specifically. The crazies cost them the Senate.

* An upside: most of the losses last night were from bad Democrats, especially the Blue Dog caucus, which was nearly decimated. The progressive caucus only lost three seats and now constitutes 40% of the Democratic House caucus.

* Most of the progressive online left is saddest to see Feingold lose, I think.

* Personally happiest to see Tancredo lose in Colorado. That guy’s completely nuts.

* At least losing the House means we don’t have to deal with individual Senate egomaniacs anymore.

* Weird proposition watch: Denver votes down UFO commission. Missouri prevents a feared pupocalypse. Oklahoma bans Sharia law, thereby saving freedom forever.

* The most important proposition, and the most important victory for the left, was probably California’s Proposition 23 on climate change, which went down. Quoting the HuffPo article: “California is the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its global warming law, passed in 2006, mandates the largest legislated reductions in greenhouse gases in the world.” This was a big win.

* Sad statistic of the night: “Meg Whitman’s personal spending on her campaign: $163 mil. Natl Endowment for the Arts 2010 budget: $161.4 mil.”

* And Republican gains are bad news for higher education. This is probably especially true for state universities in North Carolina, where Republicans now control the state legislature for the first time in a century.

Anything I missed?

When Obama Failed

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My own answer to the question of how things got this bad has less to do with whether Obama should have been more liberal or more centrist than with his and his party’s apparent inability, or perhaps refusal, to offer broad and convincing arguments about their central beliefs that counter those of the Republicans. This problem goes back to the Reagan years. It is a failure that many Democrats and liberals hoped Obama could change—something he seemed capable of changing during the campaign but has addressed rather poorly once in office.

Of course, the fact that unemployment is still 9.6%, in part because of a too-small stimulus package that was itself an early attempt at unnecessary policy compromise with the GOP, doesn’t help either.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

Obama Contrarianism Contrarianism

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Jaimee says this article about Green Recovery provisions hidden in the stimulus bill made her feel better about Obama (and about the future) than she’s felt in months, and though it’s setting the bar even lower I tend to agree.

For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.

The green industrial revolution begins with gee-whiz companies like A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass. Founded in 2001 by MIT nanotechnology geeks who landed a $100,000 federal grant, A123 grew into a global player in the lithium-ion battery market, with 1,800 employees and five factories in China. It has won $249 million to build two plants in Michigan, where it will help supply the first generation of mass-market electric cars. At least four of A123’s suppliers received stimulus money too. The Administration is also financing three of the world’s first electric-car plants, including a $529 million loan to help Fisker Automotive reopen a shuttered General Motors factory in Delaware (Biden’s home state) to build sedans powered by A123 batteries. Another A123 customer, Navistar, got cash to build electric trucks in Indiana. And since electric vehicles need juice, the stimulus will also boost the number of U.S. battery-charging stations by 3,200%. (See how Americans are spending now.)

“Without government, there’s no way we would’ve done this in the U.S.,” A123 chief technology officer Bart Riley told TIME. “But now you’re going to see the industry reach critical mass here.”

The Recovery Act’s clean-energy push is designed not only to reduce our old economy dependence on fossil fuels that broil the planet, blacken the Gulf and strengthen foreign petro-thugs but also to avoid replacing it with a new economy that is just as dependent on foreign countries for technology and manufacturing. Last year, exactly two U.S. factories made advanced batteries for electric vehicles. The stimulus will create 30 new ones, expanding U.S. production capacity from 1% of the global market to 20%, supporting half a million plug-ins and hybrids. The idea is as old as land-grant colleges: to use tax dollars as an engine of innovation. It rejects free-market purism but also the old industrial-policy approach of dumping cash into a few favored firms. Instead, the Recovery Act floods the zone, targeting a variety of energy problems and providing seed money for firms with a variety of potential solutions. The winners must attract private capital to match public dollars — A123 held an IPO to raise the required cash — and after competing for grants, they still must compete in the marketplace. “They won’t all succeed,” Rogers says. “But some will, and they’ll change the world.”

The investments extend all along the food chain. A brave new world of electric cars powered by coal plants could be dirtier than the oil-soaked status quo, so the stimulus includes an unheard-of $3.4 billion for clean-coal projects aiming to sequester or reuse carbon. There are also lucrative loan guarantees for constructing the first American nuclear plants in three decades. And after the credit crunch froze financing for green energy, stimulus cash has fueled a comeback, putting the U.S. on track to exceed Obama’s goal of doubling renewable power by 2012. The wind industry added a record 10,000 megawatts in 2009. The stimulus is also supporting the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar plant, in Florida, and what will be the world’s two largest solar thermal plants, in Arizona and California, plus thousands of solar installations on homes and buildings.

Obama made headlines today (and garnered some well-deserved praise) with a call for an additional $50 billion in stimulus money for infrastructure spending. This is a strategy for November that could stem the bleeding, especially as the Republicans double-down on their strategy of deliberately tanking the economy. I just don’t know why we’re only reading about it now, in Time, two years after the fact. Why isn’t he touting this aspect of the stimulus? It’s the best and most important part.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Closing! All! My! Tabs!

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* Al Gore is coming to Duke this April.

* Arbitrarily defined political, social, and religious positionalities correlate with a measurement that doesn’t mean anything to prove people like me are smarter than everybody else. Science!

* For the doctors in the audience: A transit map of the human body.

* John Roberts, radical. Via MeFi.

For the past few years, I’ve been giving Roberts the benefit of the doubt, hoping that he meant it when he talked about the importance of putting the bipartisan legitimacy of the Court above his own ideological agenda. But, while Roberts talked persuasively about conciliation, it now appears that he is unwilling to cede an inch to liberals in the most polarizing cases. If Roberts continues this approach, the Supreme Court may find itself on a collision course with the Obama administration–precipitating the first full-throttle confrontation between an economically progressive president and a narrow majority of conservative judicial activists since the New Deal.

* This note shows that the aggregate fiscal expenditure stimulus in the United States, properly adjusted for the declining fiscal expenditure of the fifty states, was close to zero in 2009. While the Federal government stimulus prevented a net decline in aggregate fiscal expenditure, it did not stimulate the aggregate expenditure above its predicted mean. In other words, the federal stimulus primarily covered shortfalls in state budgets; it wasn’t new spending.

* Congratulations, Senate Republicans, on another historic benchmark.

* Another day, another set of outrageous lies from Fox News.

* Another academic career ruined by Facebook?

* Health care, they say, by Easter. Thirty-six Senators now support the reinserting the public option through reconciliation; here’s how they can bring it to a vote. Meanwhile, in the House, Pelosi only needs 216 votes. It’s still being reported that the House will act first.

* Steve Benen has a list of the additional Republican ideas that Obama now wants in the health care bill. I’m certain they now hate these ideas too. Quick, call a summit!

* On Nicole Kidman’s pre-existing conditions.

* When Sartre wrote for Hollywood.

* What Smith and [Stanley] Fish are doing is asking a stupid question — where are the Orders of the Cosmic Dictator? — and failing to note that there seems to be no evidence of a cosmic dictator, and his orders are merely pretenses put up by institutionalized frauds. And then they run about in circles, flailing their arms and screaming at the people who point out that there are no orders.

* How to resign from the Catholic Church.

* Lost landscapes of Detroit.

* A History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things.

* Globalization, as seen through your taco.

* Rejoice: marriage equality in DC tomorrow.

* And please, leave Indy alone.

Nothing Can Save Us Now

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* In the spirit of Lost 1967, Lost the Sitcom.

* The stimulus worked; it just wasn’t big enough.

* Terrible people saying terrible things: How the GOP’s deregulatory health-care solution would just make things worse.

* By the time you read this, the 39-year-old Ford will either be a serious candidate for the Senate seat (with his eye on the White House) or a footnote in New York’s long history of oddball and carpetbagger campaigns. But more interesting than Ford himself are the characters egging him on: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pollster Douglas Schoen, and Joe Trippi, the Internet-politics whiz who ran Howard Dean’s and John Edwards’ presidential campaigns. These men and others represent a kind of perpetual, recurring dream in American politics that some sort of Brand X candidate or third party, transcending all known partisan divides, will emerge. Ford was merely the latest vessel for this fantasy. Via Ezra Klein, who posits Evan Bayh as the next vessel after Ford.

* Breaking: Voters don’t make rational decisions. (Via Barker.)

Human groups are unusual among primates in that our leaders are often democratically selected. Faces affect hiring decisions and could influence voting behavior. Here, we show that facial appearance has important effects on choice of leader. We show that differences in facial shape alone between candidates can predict who wins or loses in an election (Study 1) and that changing context from war time to peace time can affect which face receives the most votes (Study 2). Our studies highlight the role of face shape in voting behavior and the role of personal attributions in face perception. We also show that there may be no general characteristics of faces that can win votes, demonstrating that face traits and information about the environment interact in choice of leader.