February 26, 2009
Wyden Is Impressed, Too
Few people have been working as relentlessly towards universal health insurance in the last two years as Senator Ron Wyden, who introduced a serious universal coverage proposal just weeks after the 2006 midterm elections and has been building bipartisan support for it ever since. In an interview just moments ago, Wyden said he was pleased with Obama's opening bid on reform: In the last 36 hours, the president took two very gutsy steps on health care. The first was, after 60 years of yakking about health care in America, he wasn't going to wait until year 61 to do something about it.
First China, which is particularly relevant as Obama announces a $634 billion "reserve fund" for health care reform over the next decade. (Though, in fairness, about half is paid for by tax increases, and the administration is looking for cost savings in Medicare and Medicaid to help cover the rest.) Anyway, Brad Setser has been following purchases of U.S. debt and has picked up something extremely interesting.
February 25, 2009
In his first inauguration speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt observed that the titans of Wall Street “have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization”--an apt description for the lashing of Wall Street leaders this month in front of the House Financial Services Committee. Chairman Barney Frank and the members of his committee were less eloquent than FDR in their criticisms of the current Wall Street CEOs, but the point was the same--the public has lost faith in the leadership of our financial community. How have we come full circle over 75 years after FDR?
Bust the Slump First
Two weeks ago, at his first press conference, President Barack Obama grabbed our attention by insisting that we face a potential “lost decade” of growth--a reference to the prolonged slump in Japan during the 1990s. As a statement of our predicament, this was brilliant, breathtaking, and refreshing: Remember that most American presidents choke on the word “recession” and would never consider hinting at anything worse. The prospect of a lost decade concentrates the mind and urges consideration for bold proposals.
No One Home At Treasury
Question: Who's the deputy secretary of the Treasury? Answer: Trick question--no one! As ABC News reports today, Treasury Secretary Geithner has less than 20 percent of the politically appointed spots at Treasury filled, including his Number 2 spot. The article makes such vacancy rates seem outlandish, but historically they're not unusual at such an early stage in a new administration. Nor is it a real problem at the moment, as the policy-proposal and passage stages are handled more by the White House than the Treasury rank-and-file.
No Cookies For You, Citigroup!
We already knew there was a crisis of confidence about Citigroup. It appears there's also a major crisis of confidence within Citigroup. As the Journal reports in its terrific page one story this morning: The [federal government] scrutiny has Citigroup executives second-guessing everything, right down to the fresh-baked cookies offered at a recent corporate retreat in Armonk, N.Y.
Here is the most stunning prospective appointment of the Obama administration as yet. Not stunning as in "spectacular" or "distinguished" but stunning as in bigoted and completely out of synch with the deepest convictions of the American people.
Walter Shapiro, who has covered the last eight presidential campaigns, continues his analysis of President Obama's major speeches for The New Republic:After his well-crafted but less-than-enduring Inaugural Address and the logorrhea of his prime-time press conference, Barack Obama finally hit his long-awaited rhetorical moment with his maiden address to the Congress. This was a speech that was not defined by partisan applause lines (though there were more than 50 outbreaks of hand-clapping) nor did it have much to do with the Congress itself (despite an artful tribute to Ted Kennedy).
Congress To The Banks: Feh!
Why'd Obama spend so much time selling the bank bailout last night? Partly it's that, as Jonathan Cohn says, it inspires deep skepticism, if not outright hostility, among voters. But perhaps more to the point, that skepticism has Congress absolutely frantic. Yesterday afternoon I spoke to a senior Democratic aide in the Senate who repeatedly emphasized that, the way things stand now, it would be almost impossible to get another cent for the banks. Congress has "bailout fatigue," the aide said.
February 24, 2009
Newsflash: McCain Lost the Election!
The Republican Party has been using a grab-bag of strategies to counter Obama's policies over the past month. They rail against the stimulus package for its (supposed) pork. They hammer home their points with gimmicky videos and props. They speak in warrior rhetoric and revel in heroic, fighting-man stunts. But if there is one strand running through all these strategies, it is that they evoke a discomfiting feeling of deja vu. We’ve seen this stuff before: The GOP is currently reliving John McCain’s presidential campaign.