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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

February 12, 2008


You Get What You Pay For

And who is left holding the bag... again? If you guessed us - the American middle class - you guessed correctly. And what do we get for our prize? We get the "opportunity" to help our fellow man - and by fellow man, I am referring to the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores" who lent money to borrowers who had no business borrowing; and the borrowers who should never have been loaned that money in the first place. And all this "opportunity" will cost us is money - lots and lots of our hard-earned middle class incomes which have been dwindling since the George W. Bush said "I will".

Too bad he hasn't.

Let's recap: In an effort to make huge profits, mortgage lenders, banks and brokers sought out and found thousands of Americans with either questionable credit histories or incomes that didn't match their wants and desires to buy homes. These homes were then financed by that very same mortgage industry in order to make huge profits. The profits being taken were so tantalizing that other institutions felt as if they had to get in on the deal. Big investment firms such as global giants Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, just to name a few, threw themselves into the craze and invested their investors' dollars into these loans.

In many cases those who borrowed were given loans in excess of the home's real value. You see, during the housing bubble of the past few years, housing costs kept rising, so borrowers and lenders alike saw no reason not to lend money to just about everyone who asked for it. People actually thought that there was no end to the rise in their home's value and, even as prices began to stabilize, thought that, somehow, they were safe.

I don't want anyone to lose their home. On the other hand, there has to be consequences for one's actions. There are many more people out there who are scrimping and saving and waiting for their opportunity to get a place of their own - a place to raise a family, have barbeques and gatherings. Why should those who have, and still are, playing by the rules suffer because many in the investor class wanted to make a quick buck and those whose appetites were bigger than their wallets wanted a slice of our pie they were not entitles to?

Similar to other financial industries which George Bush calls his real "base", the investing industry is looking for a handout as well. They're using the same old tired excuse that grandma's money, which they invested unwisely, will be gone, along with your meager inheritance, if you - meaning the American middle class - doesn't pony up some real dollars to make the problem go away. Just as the Bushies bailed out the insurance industry after Hurricane Frances, and others, in Florida in 2004, they would love to give our hard-earned money away to the investment companies.

A house which a mortgage company or bank or any other lending institution loans money towards is the collateral itself. And as such, that home should be foreclosed upon if the payments can't be met. The responsibility lies with the mortgagee first, to try and make their payments in good standing; and the lender second, who can make a deal with or close the doors, then re-sell the property and take their lumps. It's how the system was designed and how it has to work.

When "the little guy" loses their money to crooks such as Bush-pal Kenny-Boy Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, there are few in that "base" of "haves and have mores" who stand up and say "Wait a minute here - That's not right!". In fact, it's always the global corporatists who have their hand out first, crying "Foul!" whenever something doesn't go their way.

No one wants to see anyone lose their home, especially the lender who stands to lose thousands of dollars on each of them. But just who had the bright idea to lend money to people at over one-hundred percent of the home's value in the first place? There are people with good credit who look at their new homes ad large, balloon -payment mortgages and ask themselves why they're still paying it. all they have to do is close the door and let the lender take the hit.

In the end, it's my belief that the lenders and investors have to answer their own question of "What do we do now?" Make a deal with the borrower; foreclose on the property, sell it and take your lumps. And as for those investors who wanted to get rich quick, too bad. We're not bailing you out anymore.

There are plenty of people who are playing by the rules and deserve a bargain. And if the bubble wasn't made so huge and so unstable by those who wanted that quick profit, they might have been able to afford that home a lot sooner than now.

The housing market isn't making a normal correction. It's making a greed correction Those who took the risk have to realize it, whether they're the borrower, the lender or the investor.

-Noah Greenberg


So, while we argue about health care proposals that will never be implemented while we spend all our money on warfare, has anyone noticed the budget Bush submitted? It includes record military spending without even fully budgeting for Iraq. Bush put 76 billion in the budget for Iraq yet we know that won't cover more than 7 months. The budget also includes record cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. How's that for a GOP health care plan?

Incidentally, the Senate caved in on wiretapping immunity for Telecommunications companies today. You wonder if the Senate will ever hold Bush/Cheney accountable or will they make all of their crimes legal? The FISA bill goes to the House now where a bill was passed that does NOT have immunity. So, the biggest privacy intrusion is now at the mercy of the Congressional conference process. I am betting on another cave in.

-Robert Scardapane

Who Pays What?

At the risk of sounding like John Edwards, rather than raise the tolls on the Turnpike and Parkway, Gov. Corzine should raise income taxes on people making more than $250 Thousand per year, on people with a net worth greater than $1.0 Million, on people who buy or lease new luxury cars every few years, and on people with millions of dollars worth of real estate investments.

I am for Tax Relief, but I am against the Paris Hilton Tax Breaks. Ms. Hilton, and others on the Fortune magazine lists of the wealthiest Americans, should contribute their fair share to protect and defend the country, to build and maintain the infrastructure and to enable life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Similarly, corporations, like Exxon-Mobil, should respect and support the society that provides a market for their goods and services, that provides the dividends they pay their investors.

-Larry Furman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

For most Americans, the 2008 race for the presidency has been more exciting than any in recent memory. More people have voted than four years ago, energized–at least among Democrats–by the first woman and first African American as prospective nominees for their party.

Since Super Tuesday on February 5, the race has intensified. Mitt Romney dropped out after his disappointing showing on Super Tuesday, leaving John McCain as the titular nominee for the Republicans.

On the Democratic side, the caucuses and primaries have set an interesting pattern for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that promises to keep the race going at least until Pennsylvanians vote on April 22, but possibly through June and the Puerto Rican vote.

Clinton still leads with more delegates and popular votes while Obama has won more states–largely because he has won the majority of the caucuses, which traditionally bring out far fewer voters, yet reap a large number of delegates, out of proportion to the popular vote.

Pundits have been trying to predict what will happen, but thus far, almost all predictions about the race from beginning to end have been wrong.

When the race began, the presumptive nominees for the parties were Rudy Giuliani for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. John McCain was considered a long shot–he was out of campaign money and seemingly out of supporters.

Mike Huckabee–considered a long shot candidate–edged into third place early among the Republicans and then pulled off a significant win in South Carolina where Giuliani came in a dismal sixth.

Giuliani ran a terrible campaign and failed to capture Republican voters. He lost big, dropping out after the Florida vote in which McCain was the resounding winner. Romney won many caucuses–and Huckabee continued to win caucuses through February 9th and has yet to concede defeat–but McCain’s delegate count currently seems unbeatable, unless Romney shifts his nearly 300 delegates to Huckabee.

Clinton has had a much tougher battle against the oratory of Obama than her campaign had presumed. John Edwards, initially considered her main rival, dropped out before Super Tuesday, conceding that he couldn’t hold his own against the tide of history–a woman and African American man. That left Democratic voters almost split between the two remaining candidates and with that historical dilemma as well.

There’s an old political axiom about the two parties: Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. But Democrats are going to need to fall in line soon, or the Republicans are going to have the clear edge come November.

The media slant toward McCain benefited him greatly in his campaign. The media has always had a fondness for McCain and that gave him free publicity when his campaign coffers were in the negative numbers. His competitors grumbled that it gave him an edge that pushed him from a distant fifth to first place.

The media slant toward Obama helped him immeasurably as well. Despite her lead, voters might still think Obama is ahead because of how the Democratic race is being reported. Clinton was expected to lose big on Super Tuesday. The pundits predicted that Obama was ahead in New Jersey, Massachusetts and California–all states where Clinton had once held a commanding lead. The endorsement of Obama by some members of the Kennedy family–Ted and Caroline (many other Kennedys–RFK, Jr, Joe and Kathleen–had already endorsed Clinton, but that didn’t make news)–was expected to win Massachusetts for Obama in a landslide. The huge rallies held by Oprah, Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy for Obama in California were supposed to turn out the state for Obama. The polls indicated both states would go for Obama.

But Super Tuesday ended quite differently than expected for both candidates. Obama won only a single large state–his home ground of Illinois–and Clinton won all the major states as well as several in the mid-section of the country. And the two were tied in Missouri and New Mexico is still being contested, but is expected to go to Clinton.

Obama won the caucuses on February 9th–as expected. Clinton is expected to win two more big states, Texas and Ohio, in early March. That could put Pennsylvania in the position of pushing one or the other candidate over the top in the delegate count.

But can the party unite?

All the talk last week was about uniting the Republican Party around McCain. Some conservatives dislike McCain. They think his views on immigration and other social issues are too liberal. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and pundit Ann Coulter, both staunch Romney supporters, threatened to vote for Hillary Clinton if McCain became the nominee.

The threat is supposed to jolt McCain into line with more conservative views, but Republicans don’t jump party, so regardless, Republicans will vote for McCain.
But Democrats do jump party and have long had a flirtation with McCain, as recently as 2004, when he was John Kerry’s rumored first choice for Vice President.
And Democrats are now more fractious than the Republicans.

While Clinton continued to say that she was certain the Democrats would rally around whomever the nominee was, the Obama camp was saying something quite different. Michelle Obama told various talk show hosts that she wasn’t sure she could support Clinton if she were the nominee. And the candidate himself said he thought Clinton’s supporters would vote for him, but didn’t think his supporters would vote for Clinton. Perhaps these comments were meant to sway prospective voters toward Obama and away from Clinton, but what has happened instead is that Obama and his wife have alienated passionate Clinton supporters–and she still does retain the lead in the race.

Some say Democrats have a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Unfortunately, this pattern allowed Republicans to regain the White House after the most prosperous and successful presidency since World War II, the Clinton Administration.

Democrats once again have the clear advantage over the Republicans in this election. But if the Obama camp continues to alienate Clinton supporters who currently comprise more than half of the votes and delegates already in, and Obama should become the nominee, the antagonism he has stirred up among that huge swathe of voters will compromise the party when it comes to the general election.

But should Obama even be the nominee? That question is still to be considered by millions of voters nationally. Pennsylvania Democrats need to think long and hard before they cast their votes in April about what would be in their best interests and the interests of the nation in this election. Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter, former Mayor Street and numerous other top Democrats in the state have already endorsed Clinton. Their reasons have been clearly articulated: Clinton’s experience will benefit Pennsylvania in general and Philadelphia in particular.

It’s certainly true that Obama brings out large crowds and has great oratorical skills. No one can refute that. But the basic theme of Obama’s stump speech, which never varies, is that he will unite the country and bring change to Washington. No one has questioned that statement, most especially Obama’s supporters, but Obama’s record–past and present–does not support his own theme. If he wants to unite the country, shouldn’t he begin with fellow Democrats? His dismissiveness toward Clinton voters is divisive. He is alienating those 12 million people who have already voted for Clinton (including the Florida and Michigan votes).

But setting aside the rancor of Obama’s message (and his wife’s) about Clinton supporters–which currently outnumber his own–where is his record in the Senate of bridging the bipartisan gap or even of proposing legislation that would benefit Americans?

Alas, there is none.

That bodes ill for a race against McCain if Obama should be the nominee. McCain is not just a seasoned veteran of Washington politics, but he has massive appeal among Independents and even Democrats. In New Hampshire, where a third of voters were Independents, the Independent vote went to McCain, not Obama, as predicted by not just pundits, but Obama’s own campaign. Clinton won the state for the Democrats. And with an overall vote far exceeding McCain’s, just as she has in every other state where McCain has won.

It’s also important to look at the overall votes thus far. The states that Obama has won have been almost wholly caucus votes in states that have never gone for a Democrat in voting history and where there will not be caucuses in November, but straight votes.

Conversely, Clinton has won–in landslides–the states that would be essential for a Democratic win in November, most notably Florida, California and Michigan. But she has also won primaries–not caucuses–in red states like Oklahoma and Tennessee. Those, too will be essential in November.

The race is far from over. Democrats still heady with the excitement of the campaign and the intensity of Obama’s rhetoric must remember, however, that the media’s kid-glove treatment of Obama will end the second he becomes the nominee. That could seriously damage the chances for Democrats in November.

Clinton has proven a worthy opponent against McCain in the past. What’s more, she still holds sway over the bulwark of the Democratic Party voters–the working class, poor, women, Hispanics, older voters, unionists. Obama’s won the vote of a majority–but not all–African Americans, new (and as he saw in California and Massachusetts, undependable) voters and wealthy voters.

The question of the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan delegates remains an open question that may come to a floor-fight at the convention in August.

The best scenario for the Democrats is simple–but will either candidate accede to it? Whoever leads in June, at the end of the primary season, should be the nominee and the runner up should be the vice presidential pick. A Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket sews up all the Democratic votes, effectively ends the internecine rancor in the party and snatches any undecided Independents from McCain’s grasp. It obviates a floor-fight for delegates and super delegates.

It’s a scenario that could bring the party–and the country–together, for real. But will they do it, or choose a losing path yet again?

In response to the BLS report's , "They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey," and Madman's, "That's right - if you've been so discouraged by the lack of jobs, and even if you has looked for a job for twelve months in a row, if you had decided to take a break from your search during the height of the Holiday season, you simply weren't counted," David W. Writes (with just a bit of sarcasm):

Is that the way it works? I thought the only way they knew who wasn't working was by the number receiving unemployment benefits--which end after 26 weeks whether you found work or not. Part of the deal with being able to receive unemployment benefits is that you're supposed to drop in each week or so and state that you did look for work the past week.

People who have run out of benefits don't exist do they? Is there a number that employers are supposed to call each week and laughingly say, "We had 12 morons showing up here this week looking for work... Hell no we didn't hire any of them!"

In response to, "Of course you're entitled to your opinions, but what copouts you are, Noah Greenberg and Robert Scardapane!" Robert Scardapane writes:

Gee thank you for the "kind words". But sadly, you weren't reading what I said. Let me try again. I said that none of the health care proposals from the candidates that remain excite me very much. I see only two answers to universal health care: 1) single payer - the best answer, 2) highly regulated multi-payer - a common enough option in other countries to be worth debating.

It's possible that opening the government pool to everyone would lead to answer 2) but so far neither candidate has exactly proposed that. I merely pointed out that if they did it would be in essence option 2).

And Madman responds:

I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know that Robert Scardapane has also chastised me for not advocating a Single Payer Universal Health Care (SPUHC) Plan. It should be noted that I am for such a plan, but will take what is achievable first.

It's good to get health care into the national view (pardon my web site's shameless plug), and we all still have John Edwards to thank for that. But I am willing to compromise to get something done now with the end result being a SPUHC Plan in the end. I don't believe that we can get it done in the next four years and I don't believe that any candidate can get by the big insurance lobby and win in November.

In the past, I have advocated a system which allows all citizens free medical if their family doesn't earn over an arbitrary minimum (minimum wage times the number of dependents comes to mind). After that minimum is met, every family would pay up to a certain percentage of their incomes towards health care (five percent?)

I'm willing to take this baby-step instead of no step at all.

And Rhian responds:

I agree with Carol.
The poverty class created by mandatory auto insurance has still not caught up with that mandated expense and never will. If there is a mandate, it should be on pharma, not families.

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-Noah Greenberg