Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Annals Of Stupidity, Auto Executive Edition
November 19, 2008

Riddle of the day: When three auto industry executives came to Washington on Tuesday, in order to make the case for a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-backed rescue, did they fly coach or first class?  Ha! It's a trick question. They did neither. Instead, they took private jets. Three separate private jets.  ABC News has the goods (h/t Yglesias): While [GM executive Rick] Wagoner testified, his G4 private jet was parked at Dulles airport.

The Word From Rahm: We Will "throw Long And Deep"
November 19, 2008

There's been a lot of debate about how quickly the Obama Administration can move on its domestic policy agenda--and for how long it might have to shelve big-ticket items like fighting climate change and major health care reform. It appears we have an answer, via incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Last night, Emanuel addressed a group of business executives.

Quoth The Budget Director, "nevermore." (updated)
November 18, 2008

Word has it that Congressional Budget Office director Peter Orszag will be joining the Obama Administration as its budget director. This has potentially major implications for the future of Obama's agenda, for reasons I will explain tomorrow when I have the benefit of some more sleep. For now, though, I'd like to focus on a far less weighty, but no less intriguing, issue: What Orszag's move would mean for the literary quality of future Obama administration policy reports. Yes, that's right--literary quality.

A Kinder, Gentler Bankruptcy For Gm?
November 18, 2008

As a number of analysts have noted, the biggest reason a General Motors bankruptcy is so frightening is that it might not work out like the airline bankruptcies have. Remember, if General Motors were trying to reorganize itself under bankruptcy, it would have to come up with cash in order to buy parts. Thanks to the problems on Wall Street, that could be extremely difficult. That means GM could end up filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, rather than Chapter 11, and going through liquidation. The ripple effects could take down the rest of the auto industry or some significant portion of it.

Disclosure Statement
November 17, 2008

The propriety of giving paid speeches has been a subject of debate for many years. Readers may wonder whether appearing before a group biases a writer towards the group’s point of view--or whether writers are tilting their work in ways to generate more speaking income.

Why And How To Bail Out Detroit (continued)
November 17, 2008

One reason nobody is excited about bailing out the auto industry is that it defies the free market. If the companies can't make it on their own, shouldn't the government just let them die? It's a reasonable argument. But today in the Washington Post, an economist with some pretty cood intellectual credentials--Jeffrey Sachs--makes the case for a bailout anyway. ...the automakers cannot turn to ordinary borrowing to tide them over until that happens because of the ravaged capital markets. The risk spreads of corporate bonds over U.S.

Panic in Detroit
November 14, 2008

General Motors has come to Washington, begging for a $25 billion bailout to keep it and its ailing Detroit counterparts going next year. But nobody seems too thrilled about the prospect. Liberals dwell on the companies’ gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. Conservatives obsess over all the well-paid union members with gold-plated benefits. And people of all ideological backgrounds remember how they used to buy domestic cars, years ago, but stopped because the cars were so damn lousy.

Universal Coverage: Full Speed Ahead
November 12, 2008

I'll have more to say on Max Baucus's health care announcement tonight or tomorrow.  (Boy, did I pick the wrong day to spend out of the office reporting!) Quickly, though, I want to highlight one key development. In the full paper, Baucus says it will take three to four years before we'd get to universal coverage. But that doesn't mean he wants to delay working on a bill. Here's what Carol Guthrie, spokesperson for the Democratic staff at the Finance Committee, just told me: Senator Baucus would like to move a comprehensive reform bill in 2009.

Health Care To The Max: Baucus Plan Out (updated)
November 12, 2008

As reported in this week's edition, Max Baucus and his staff at the Senate Finance Committee have been working on health care reform since the beginning of summer. Today, he will publish a preliminary outline of what he has in mind. Afterwards, he plans to resume discussions with Senator Ted Kennedy and his staff at the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. They still hope to produce one joint bill, although--as Ezra Klein noted--tensions over committee turf may get in the way. What will Baucus propose?

One More Note On Larry Summers (updated)
November 10, 2008

Noam has made most of the essential points about Lawrence Summers, who remains (as far as I know) one of two people under consideration to become Barack Obama's Secretary of the Treasury. But I wanted to add one thought, relevant--I hope--to other liberals like me. On the issues I know best and over which the Treasury Secretary has sway, Summers is good. Very, very good. In the last few years, he has become a persistent critic of inequality and advocate for government action to redress it.