Ian Welsh

Why Democrats Run from Real Change

Forty-five percent of the Democratic base now says they aren't going to vote in 2010 or are thinking of not voting. This is a direct result of Democrats in Congress and the Presidency doing things the base disagrees with or not doing things the base wants to see done. It appears politically stupid to act as they have, and yet, they did. So why?

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ACORN Broke No Laws - Dems Still Threw Them Under the Bus

As with David, I'd like to take a moment away from the holiday to highlight a story which I don't want buried.

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Geithner Becomes Treasury Secretary

The Senate has passed Timothy Geithner through as Treasury secretary. I'm sure he will do as good a job for Barack Obama as he did for George W. Bush, [Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke and [ex-Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson.

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Hillary Clinton Confirmed As Secretary Of State

I would have preferred her for a domestic slot like health, but it's still amusing to see Clinton confirmed with only 2 votes against (Vitter and Demint), if only to keep janitors employed cleaning up after wingnut head explosions for the duration of her stay at Foggy Bottom.  (Hey it's nasty work, but it's work).

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What a Better Stimulus Bill Would Look Like

What could Obama have proposed instead of tax cuts?  Some very quick examples:

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How Fumbling the Bailout Led to the Chicago Sit In

Over the last couple months I've warned that one main reason banks aren't lending, and are cutting off credit lines to businesses and individuals, is because they are hoarding money in order to buy competitors. In the Chicago factory sit in, the key moment which caused Republic Windows to shut down was when Bank of America cut off their line of credit, which they did just before they approved a $50 billion takeover of Merrill Lynch.

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7 Ways the Fed Could Bail Out Struggling Homeowners

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke seems to be slowly working his way to the conclusion that the economy and the finance crisis can't be fixed without helping homeowners. As usual, he's late to the party, but I suppose better late than never. His proposals, such as they are, are vague. Let's run through how it has to be done if it's going to be done right.

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Obama Coolly Dispatches Punch-Drunk McCain

So, ok, clearly Obama won again. We don't even need to see the polls to know that. He comes across as president already, while John McCain comes across as an angry doddering old man.

Here's what I don't understand. Essentially McCain made the same sort of mistakes he made last time. Not friendly enough, not calm, awful body language and so on. Not a statesman. Not a reassuring elder who's seen it all and who can be trusted to deal with it now.

I don't believe that his handlers don't know this. I don't believe they didn't know this after the first debate. It was dead clear. So, does John McCain not know this? Are they not able to tell it to him? Does he not listen? Why do they not have someone coaching him? Ditch some campaign appearances and spend hours working on his body language, his voice tone and give him answers that are statesmanlike.

Or is John "Maverick" McCain too angry to listen? Too frazzled, too tired, too unable to make a change from a game plan that clearly isn't working. Is it the campaign? Or is it him?

Crucified By Your House

In 1896 William Jennings Bryan brough down the house with his Cross of Gold speech, in which he railed against the gold standard. Americans responded because many felt they had indeed been crucified upon a cross of gold by the bankers and the rich men of the east. Today, it's their houses they've been nailed to, and it's their houses they'll go down with.

As in Bryan's day, today one of the main problems in the US is the monetary system, but unlike in 1896, when tight money was used to keep creditors, most especially farmers, in their place, today it has been loose credit and repeated inflationary asset bubbles driven by uncontrolled money creation which threatens the middle class. While the uncontrolled creation of money isn't limited to the housing bubble, or what is laughably called "sub-prime", since the problems extend far past sub-prime, understanding how real-estate and housing work is integral to understanding the impact, because for most Americans their home is the most important asset they own.

To talk about Housing one has to first talk about what money is. In the modern world money is generally created as debt. The simplest form is where someone goes to the bank, say "I have asset X that's worth Y and I want to borrow money." The bank takes a look at the asset, checks you out and if they think you can pay them back, they give you the loan. Because a bank can loan multiples of the money it has been given to keep for other people (deposits) most of that money is, in effect, created out thin air.

That's the fractional reserve system, and it creates money.

Ron Paul Wants to Repeal the 20th Century

This post, written by Ian Welsh, originally appeared on Agonist

I've mostly stayed out of the Ron Paul discussions at the Agonist. But I think it needs to be pointed out that what Ron Paul wants to do is essentially repeal the progress made in the 20th century. Radical de-federalization would mean endgangering civil liberties in large parts of the country - the US did not de-segregate because the states wanted to, it desegregated because the Federal government made the States do so at the point of a gun.

The entire network of laws and institutions created by the New Deal and the Progressive era would be swept away if Ron Paul's plans were to go through. The US would move back to uncontrolled capitalism even more ugly than what it has now. While the government is currently not controlling the excesses of business, it has most of the tools to do so. Ron Paul would take away those tools, along with most of the tools used to enforce civil liberties (when a Democrat is in government, anyway.)
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