Tag Archives: The Bailout

Uncomfortably Numb

Post-bailout, does the public attach any significance to the dollar cost of public programs?  Do you? Do I? Chris Hayes writes that Republicans will opportunistically capitulate on the stimulus package and then use its cost to justify blocking Obama’s other legislative priorities. In any other political context, this strikes me as a savvy move, but I’m beginning to think that the bailout debacle has left us numb to more deficit spending.

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Consistency

Speaking of spare F-22s, I’m pleased to report that Congressional Republicans have rediscovered their affinity for corporate welfare (emphasis mine):

Without further spending for the F-22, companies that supply critical components for it would begin shutting down soon.

The chairmen and ranking Republicans on both the House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees recently wrote to Mr. Gates to voice their support for the F-22, cautioning that “the last thing our nation needs is to terminate jobs in this time of such economic uncertainty.”

Like many big weapons systems, the plane, which relies on 1,000 parts suppliers in 44 states, has strong support in Congress, which recently provided up to $140 million in bridge financing for some of the suppliers.

The ranking Republican on House’s Defense Appropriations Defense Subcommittee is Bill Young, who opposed the financial services bailout and voted against the Big Three rescue package.

I’m struggling to identify the logic of Young’s position, as the auto industry bailout is also premised on preserving jobs – more, I’d wager, than are threatened by cuts in the F-22 program – at a time of economic uncertainty. Shouldn’t he at least pretend there’s some pressing national security issue at stake here? He does realize we have access to Google, right?

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Elites Through The Ages

Razib Khan surveys the rise of democratic populism in the United States:

New England was the last redoubt of the Federalist vision of hierarchical conservatism, from limited white male suffrage to established churches. Additionally, the rise to the fore of what during the Enlightenment would be termed “Enthusiasm” is notable, as democratic politics turns into a quadrennial performance. In religious terms there was an alliance at both ends of the theological spectrum; Free Thinkers & Deists in Philadelphia made common cause with Baptist “Back Country” farmers and nominally Episcopalian “Low Country” planters against the urbane Congregationalist ascendancy of New England. The historical reality of the rise of democratic populism, and something of an amnesia about the nature of the republic during its early years (when democracy was something of a term of insult), leads to the peculiarities of the American Right, which is in many measures a descendant of classical liberalism.

I find this interesting because we seem to have gradually replaced explicit barriers to political participation with more subtle cultural and social hurdles. Much has been made of President-Elect Barack Obama’s sterling establishment credentials. And while Obama is undoubtedly a unique historical figure, his academic pedigree reflects certain core assumptions about where our presidents should come from. Similarly, John Kennedy may have been our first Irish Catholic president, but his background and political advisers epitomized establishment thinking. Given these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that the United States’ first black president came to the White House by way of Harvard Law School rather than Howard University.

Poll taxes and property requirements were blunt instruments for stymieing populist anxieties, but mediating cultural institutions like elite schools serve much the same function. The backlash against the bailout, for example, was largely ignored by experts driving government policy. In the midst of an economic meltdown, the credentials of a Paulson or a Bernanke were certainly reassuring, but it’s worth remembering that their approach to crisis management wasn’t nearly as considered as many of us (myself included) first assumed. All of which begs the question: do soft cultural barriers actually do a better job of weeding out incompetence and diluting the influence of an excitable public? Elite groupthink is probably an inevitable result of any non-egalitarian social arrangement, but the recent crisis suggests our unique brand of meritocratic elitism is particularly susceptible to arrogant short-sightedness

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Filed under Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Politics

They used to make televisions there, no?

I’m afraid I don’t understand John Judis’s latest foray into economic nationalism:

Can’t Japanese, South Korean, and German firms (with the Chinese also readying an industry) supply cars to American consumers? First, of course, it’s a matter of several million jobs ranging from auto workers to suppliers to the myriad of small businesses that cater to these workers and businesses disappearing in the midst of global recession that is verging on a depression. Secondly–and little remarked–it’s the loss not merely of assembly line jobs, but also the ability to conceive, design and engineer large durable goods.

With them, it is not going to be possible to abandon manufacturing while retaining the ability to engineer and administer. The industry will disappear the way the American television industry disappeared. American workers and engineers will lose their ability to compete in a major durable goods industry–and that’s not a good thing.

Conservative jingos, at least, have a concrete argument for industrial favoritism. Preserving domestic heavy manufacturing is worth doing because it’s supposed to keep us strategically independent.

Other than protecting domestic jobs, however, I’m not sure what the liberal argument for industrial protectionism is. Apparently, losing heavy manufacturing capability is bad because . . . otherwise we won’t have any heavy manufacturing capability. Which sounds like a bit of a tautology, though I’m sure our lack of TV-producing infrastructure has had a devastating effect on American society.

The best argument that Judis can muster in favor of the bailout is the plight of American autoworkers, who certainly deserve our sympathy and support. So instead of propping up a moribund industry, let’s examine job retraining programs and beefed-up unemployment benefits. That, at least, would prevent auto industry execs from holding workers’ job prospects hostage every time bankruptcy looms.

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Filed under Economics, Liberalism (Left)

Leverage

Progressives spend a lot of time talking about the need to use our newfound corporate leverage (courtesy of the various bailout rescue packages we’re handing out) to jump-start broader reform. The auto industry, for example, is now a prime target for mandatory “greening.” Well, maybe. I say we use the Citi bailout to stop corporations from choosing awful names for newly-built stadiums (I mean, Citi Field? Really? I don’t even watch baseball and I’m appalled). Come to think of it, doesn’t FedEx need a quick infusion of government cash?

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Worthy Links

  • I know Obama supporters are supposed to be a bunch of unreconstructed Maoists, but Matthew Yglesias has a great post on why we shouldn’t bail out the auto industry.
  • EPL Talk imagines where every English club would end up if the Premiership moved to the United States. About half the teams get stuck in either Ohio or New York, and then there’s this gem: ” . . . only The City Of Angels, better known as Los Angeles, could host the decadence of Manchester City and their Middle East owners.”
  • Marc Ambinder flags Obama’s first weekly address. I wonder if YouTube will make this sort of thing relevant again.
  • Eliot Spitzer – yes, that Eliot Spitzerreemerges from whatever rock he crawled under to lecture the rest of us on the need for honesty and integrity.

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Worthy Links

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Filed under Culture, Economics, The Media