Author Archives: Mick

You Can’t Have a Substantive Debate Unless You Have Substantive Candidates

TPM’s Caitlin MacNeal published the full text of Reince Priebus’ letter to NBC pulling out of their slated February debate and there is, not surprisingly, what you might call a not-so-subtle disconnect between the debate we saw and the debate he’s describing. The debate we all saw was a candidate free-for-all in which they treated the moderators – and the audience – with blistering contempt. They interrupted each other, refused to pay any attention to time constraints or the “rules” they themselves had demanded, yelled at each other, and generally acted like grade school bullies on a tear. But that isn’t the debate Priebus apparently saw.

The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith.

Really? How’s that?

CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on “the key issues that matter to all voters—job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy.” That was not the case.

Well, Reince, they tried. Give them credit for that. But look what happened when they did.  Asked for details as you request, they either answered by asserting generalities without explaining anything or they ignored the question entirely and went off on pre-scripted irrelevant rants.

Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive.

Inaccurate how, Reince? Was Quick’s question asking Carson to explain his economic program because the numbers didn’t add up – which they don’t, not even close – inaccurate? No, it was not. But more importantly, look at Carson’s answer: It will work because I say it will work. Asked how he would build his border wall, Trump answered: I’ll do it. It’ll be easy. Then he compared it to the Great Wall of China. Like, what?!

The fault, dear Reince, lies not in the moderators but in the candidates, and it’s simply stated:


And you don’t have any, Reince. What you’ve got are faith-based imagineers who are comfortable with loopy theories and wide swaths of non-specific generalizations and unproven assertions. None of them DO detail. Asked for it, they think they’re being attacked. All of your candidates are lightweight and ignorant. None of them has the remotest idea what govt does or how it does it, and none of them give a shit about learning.

While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of “gotcha” questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.

The moderators – any moderators – can’t do it in a vacuum. Those questions were NOT “petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.” They were attempting to elicit “policies and ideas” except your candidates don’t have any. Their collected economic policies could be written on a napkin, and not one of them has at any point in their careers come up with an idea that wasn’t old when Reagan was a baby.

Give it up, Reince. It’s hopeless. PR and marketing spin notwithstanding, you can’t make them something they’re not. Maybe you ought to consider Cruz’s suggestion and hire Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck as your next moderators. It’ll still be a trainwreck but more fun to watch.

Why Clinton’s Pandering Matters

David Dayen’s recent piece, what you might call a primary on primaries, makes some good points on why Clinton’s opposition to the TPP is a Good Thing even if it is “pandering” to a populist/progressive movement.

What’s wrong with pandering? Our system of government, as it has evolved, offers precious few opportunities for ordinary people to get into the national conversation. Big Money has a tight grip on governance through insistent lobbying, and for the most part they fund national elections.

For once, the Democratic nominating fight, and the emergence of Bernie Sanders, has given public interest groups a voice, a rare channel to impact the political system. We shouldn’t roll our eyes at that; we should respect it. National leaders should have to listen to their constituents and earn their support. Primaries are one of the only moments that allow such an opportunity.

Had Mr Dayen written this piece 10 years ago – even 5 – I would be cheering. After all, I’ve been saying for at least a decade, ever since liberal Dems started blaming Nader for Gore’s 2000 defeat, that a push from a third party looked to be the only way to force an increasingly conservative Democratic party back to its root liberalism. The party had been captured by Third Way cons – the so-called neoliberals – and needed a challenge from the left to move them back toward the center. Continue reading

I Live in NH and Joan Walsh Is Right

Salon’s Joan Walsh has been taking it on the chin for saying that NH’s GOP Trump supporters were “lowest common denominators” (which isn’t what she actually said) and that that was “sad”. She has since clarified the LCD comment-

I actually wasn’t referring to the voters themselves (in fact, that makes no sense); I was talking about the solutions they seem to embrace for the country’s woes.

– but either way she meant it, it’s true. Their attitudes do reflect LCD thinking, are childish, are free from every response but visceral wishful thinking. I know this because I grew up here surrounded by these people and left here in large part because of them. I’ve come back after 40 yrs to find that very little has changed. Continue reading

Dem Base Is Not the Tea Party

WaPo pundlette Paul Waldman wants to make an article out of this: “Republicans fear their activist base. Democrats don‘t.” Like there’s something going on here. Well, there’s a couple things going on here, alright –  a mistake and the Dem elite who control the party these days.

Mistake: “The Tea Party started just as much as a movement of self-styled outsiders, but unlike activists on the left, they pursued an inside strategy from the outset, one focused clearly on elections.”

Because they were NOT outsiders. The Tea Party was started by Dick Armey with Koch Bros money and aimed at the political disruption of establishment Dems from the very beginning. Neither Armey nor the GOP establishment expected that they would use what they were taught by them on their GOP Masters. BlackLivesMatter are NOT a trained arm of Dem operatives. They have arisen from a need and are clearly not politically sophisticated yet. No comparison.

The Dem elite: The simplest way to explain why the Third Way/BD/NewDem party leaders don’t give a shit about the base is to repeat Axelrod’s comment from 2012.

“We don’t have to care. Where else are they going to go?”

“A Republican Ruse”

The Republicans haven’t taken over yet but they’ve made their plans known and it won’t come as much of a surprise that their top priorities are tax cuts. One of the very first changes will be gaming the system that tracks whether or not tax cuts work. By every legitimate measure, including common sense, they don’t. The Pubs are going to change all that.

AS Republicans take control of Congress this month, at the top of their to-do list is changing how the government measures the impact of tax cuts on federal revenue: namely, to switch from so-called static scoring to “dynamic” scoring. While seemingly arcane, the change could have significant, negative consequences for enacting sustainable, long-term fiscal policies.

Whenever new tax legislation is proposed, the nonpartisanCongressional Budget Office “scores” it, to estimate whether the bill would raise more or less revenue than existing law would.


[The] conventional estimates do not, however, include any indirect feedback effects that tax law changes might have on overall national income. In other words, they do not incorporate macroeconomic behavioral changes.

Dynamic scoring does. Proponents point out, correctly, that if a tax proposal is large enough, then those sorts of feedback effects can aim the entire economy on a slightly different path.

“Dynamic scoring” basically allows the injection of unjustified assumptions about the future performance of the economy. IOW, adding a baseline article of faith from Reaganomics that all tax cuts on the wealthy raise revenues and if they don’t, it’s because they weren’t deep enough.

Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending). Simply cutting taxes against the headwind of structural deficits leads to lower growth, as government borrowing soaks up an ever-increasing share of savings.

The most optimistic dynamic models get around this by assuming that the world today is in fiscal equilibrium, where the deficit does not grow continuously as a percentage of gross domestic product. But that’s not true. If you add the reality of spiraling deficits into those models, they don’t work.

To make these models work, scorekeepers must arbitrarily assume either that we tax more and spend less today than is really the case — which is what they did for the Camp bill — or assume that a tax cut today will be followed by a spending cut or tax increase tomorrow. Economists describe such a move as “making counterfactual assumptions”; the rest of us call it “making stuff up.”

Again IOW, they’re going to enshrine in law a faith-based assessment mechanism guaranteed in advance to justify both their rosy predictions and their brutal get-tough-on-the-poor cuts to human services along with their go-easy-on-corporations cuts to everything from the SEC to the FDA. They will now be able to point to government-authorized conclusions that everything is fine even as it collapses around ordinary folk not rich enough to protect themselves from it.

The Republicans’ interest in dynamic scoring is not the result of a million-economist march on Washington; it comes from political factions convinced that tax cuts are the panacea for all economic ills. They will use dynamic scoring to justify a tax cut that, under conventional scorekeeping, loses revenue.

When revenues do in fact decline and deficits rise, those same proponents will push for steep cuts in government insurance or investment programs, because they will claim that the models demand it. That is what lies inside the Trojan horse of dynamic scoring.

A win-win. When their tax cuts make the economy worse, their scoring model will demand more tax cuts as a fix.

Priority #2 is likewise financially related: further weakening if not killing outright Dodd-Frank, once again allowing banks to rig their own scams.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law was supposed to curb speculation in swaps. But as The Journal has reported, hedge funds are increasingly using swaps to wager on whether weak firms will live or die. RadioShack, the troubled consumer electronics retailer, is one of several prominent examples. In December, RadioShack’s total debt came to about $1.4 billion, but swaps outstanding on the performance of the debt totaled $23.5 billion. Similarly, J.C. Penney, the ailing department store chain, had total debt of some $8.7 billion, but swaps outstanding on the debt totaled $19.3 billion.

Those gaps suggest excessive speculation, though it is hard, if not impossible, to gauge the precise exposure of funds to big losses. What is known is that a hedge fund that is betting on a company’s default has an incentive to push it over the edge. Conversely, a fund that is betting a troubled company will not default has an incentive to keep it afloat, at least long enough to avoid a big payout. Either way, the company becomes a pawn in a financial game.

Speculative activity is likely to increase. Last month, Congress repealed an anti-speculation provision of Dodd-Frank that would have prevented federally insured banks from conducting several types of swap transactions. In addition, the Federal Reserve recently gave the banks two extra years to meet a Dodd-Frank provision requiring them to sell their investments in private equity funds and hedge funds.

And when the 2 yrs are up, the Fed will extend the deadline for 2 more yrs and then 2 more after that and so on and so on.

The Democrat minority will, of course, “compromise” by unconditionally surrendering when their corporate sponsors tell them to.

And so it goes.

Hillary and The Liberals ’16 (Updated)

The year before an election year, it is perhaps appropriate to start talking about Democrat hopefuls, party goals, and what the base of the party – liberals – will do when the Third Way Masters decree yet another Republican-lite candidate. If we’re going to have an impact on the process, we’ve got to figure out how to make an elite that believes in coddling corporations for the sake of donations understand that there’s more to democracy than raising $$$ to get elected with.

This will not be easy. Continue reading

The Conservative Double Whammy

For several weeks now, the American Legion has been running adds asking for donations – $20 a month – to help wounded veterans from the Iraq war. Nothing wrong with that but this: the core of their pitch is that “we” made promises to take care of them that “we” didn’t keep and now it’s time for “all of us” to step up and keep “our” word to those harmed when they were in “our” service.

The tone is one of finger-wagging accusation and “you oughta be ashamed of ourself” sadness that “we” let down “our” vets by cutting the medical benefits they were supposed to get. Sounds like AL is doing its patriotic duty toward our fighting men, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: “we” didn’t cut those services. The people who did – Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress – were universally supported, financially and otherwise, by the same American Legion that is now tut-tutting at us for allowing it to happen. Continue reading