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Mr. Geithner Goes to Wall Street

August 4th, 2010 No comments

I got a kick out this story when I read it yesterday morning.

NEW YORK– Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to New York City on Monday to tell bankers and the financial industry that new financial regulations are a good thing for business.

Geithner explained to an audience at NYU that while the law’s regulations would be a “foundation of a stronger economy,” the Obama administration would seek a balance that would safeguard business.

There are probably two reasons that Obama sent his Treasure Secretary to Wall Street with this message. First is to improve Geithner’s image as a complete tool of the financial industry by placing him in a role that makes him appear separate from it.

But the second reason is the funny one. Back in February, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor met with the titans of Wall Street to assure them that he and Republican Party would be doing everything they could to block reform and let the financial industry continue with business as usual. His pitch seems to have worked:

Months later, an emerging campaign theme is the Democratic Party’s trouble collecting Wall Street donations. The Republican Party, save for a handful of members, voted en masse against financial regulatory reform and some GOP lawmakers have pledged to repeal the final product. At the same time, it has been widely reported that Obama has a frosty relationship with the business community. And, perhaps most tellingly, Cantor has seen his campaign coffers bulge.

Data released on Wednesday morning by the good government group Public Campaign shows that Cantor received more than $460,000 from the financial sector during the second quarter of 2010.

So Wall Street is giving more money to Republicans and less money to Democrats. This is no surprise. But that fact that Tim Geithner had to go and try to make nice with the bankers seems to indicate that it came as a surprise to Obama.

His whole strategy with financial reform was to do what Geithner said and water down the bill enough for it to meet with Wall Street’s approval. He needed to pass some kind of reform to appease progressives, but the reform needed to be weak enough to appease the bankers.

Well this is what happens when you try to have it both ways. Not only are progressives disillusioned and angry that the legislation was so toothless, but Wall Street isn’t satisfied that the legislation was toothless enough. Democrats might serve their interests, but republicans serve them better.

Maybe next time Obama will actually try to fight for real change, seeing as how even his pocket change is too much for Big Industry. But considering that Tim Geithner is not only still around but still trying to cozy-up to Wall Street, I highly doubt it.

There Is No Immigration Crisis

August 4th, 2010 No comments

If you’re one of those consumers of conservative news who is convinced that the problem of illegal immigration is spinning wildly out of control, that crime rates in border states are soaring, that ranches on American soil are being taken over by violent drug cartels, and that this problem must be dealt with immediately through strong measures like the Arizona sb1070 law or the repeal of the 14th amendment, I dare you to watch this entire segment from the Rachel Maddow show:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you didn’t watch it because you’re afraid of being confronted with actual facts that might shake the carefully constructed worldview you’ve been operating under for decades, you’re not in the clear yet. I suggest you stop reading this now if you want to preserve your illusions.

The fact is, illegal immigration is not spinning wildly out of control. This chart from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the number of migrant apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border over the last two decades:

Wouldn’t you know it—it’s actually going down. Why? It might have something to do with the massive economic recession we’re going through, seeing as how the same thing happened during the mini-recession of the early 2000s. When the economy sucks, less immigrants come here because there are obviously fewer opportunities for them to get hired and enjoy a significantly better standard of living than they’d be able to have in Mexico. If conditions are poor on both sides of the fence, they might as well remain on their side.

But what about crime? John McCain recently called Phoenix the “kidnapping capital of the world”, a blatantly false talking point that’s now being repeated by his fellow Arizona senator John Kyl, who insists that crime rates are rising wildly due to the supposed rise in illegal immigrants crossing the border. These guys are sure serving their state well! I’m sure everyone who works in the Arizona tourist industry are very happy that their senators are telling the rest of the country that it’s not safe to come to Arizona.

Well, let’s do them a favor and look at the facts. In the above clip, a segment from an interview with John Kyl is played in which the senator is confronted with the inconvenient fact that crime rates in Arizona have actually been dropping. Kyl insists that while certain kinds of crimes have been going down, property crimes and violent crimes have been going up. Here are the numbers:

Property Crimes in AZ:
231,633 (2009)
262,130 (2008)
277,051 (2007)
281,686 (2006)

Violent Crimes in AZ:
26,094 (2009)
28,753 (2008)
29,612 (2007)
30,833 (2006)

If you look closely, you’ll notice those numbers consistently going down. The Arizona in which illegal immigrants are constantly pouring over the border to rape, pillage, plunder, kidnap and murder Americans exists solely in the imagination of conservative politicians, their enablers in the right-wing media, and those predisposed to believe anything that supports their pre-existing worldview while ignoring everything else.

Incidentally, the story about how the Los Zetas drug cartel has taken over ranches in Laredo, Texas—that Mexican drug-lords are invading American soil—is also completely false. In fact, if you Google “los zetas laredo” you can scroll through at least five pages of right-wing blogs trumpeting the story without ever coming to a single actual news source. You won’t even find the story anywhere on CNN.com. Why? Because they check facts, and there are no facts behind this one.

Republican politicians still think it’s the mid-1980s and that getting people all riled up about illegal immigrants is a great way to win elections. If stories that support their portrait of Mexican immigrants as violent criminals can’t be found, conservatives simply invent them. They forget that it’s 2010, when the truth can easily be found with nothing more than an internet connection and a few minutes of spare time.

They also forget that it’s 2010, when there are a heck of a lot more Hispanic citizens in America than there were in 1980, and that those legal residents might not appreciate their cousins from across the border being painted as bloodthirsty delinquents. Whipping up immigration furor may be a good way to win a primary, but it’s an incredibly stupid strategy for winning general elections—especially in the long-term.

Laws like sb1070 are an over-reaction to a problem that isn’t nearly as bad as it seems whenever an election season rolls around. Repealing the 14th Amendment, which guarantees that every citizen born on U.S. soil is considered a U.S. citizen, would be the most radical over-reaction on the part of the U.S. government since the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. It’s a part of the essence of America that anyone born here, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity is an American. Doing away with that just to prevent a few illegals from crossing the border to have anchor-babies would be a profoundly terrible mistake.

Luckily, this kind of race-baiting strategy will continue to lose effectiveness as the country becomes increasingly more multi-ethnic. So while I do recognize that there are economic problems associated with illegal immigration, that it’s unfair to those who go through the legal process to grant amnesty to those who came here illegally, and that a comprehensive immigration policy from the federal government is long overdue, I welcome anyone who brings a bit more color to America regardless of the manner in which they arrive.

I Hate the Democratic Party

August 4th, 2010 No comments

Okay, so I don’t hate all democrats and I hate the Republican Party more, but when it comes to the Democratic establishment I have nothing but contempt—contempt which has been seriously reinforced by this news from Newsweek.

Remember the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Clinton? It seemed to drag on forever because even after Obama won a clear majority of normal delegates—those elected by popular vote—there were still over eight hundred superdelegates—party leaders and Democratic VIPs—with their votes still up in the air. These superdelegates each have a vote equal to one normal delegate who represents thousands or tens of thousands of voters, which means a superdelegate’s vote counts thousands of times more than the average person’s. Theoretically, in a close enough primary the superdelegates could overrule the majority of voters and nominate the candidate who won less normal delegates, which is what Hillary Clinton was hoping would happen in 2008.

Everyone who paid attention closely enough to learn about this ridiculousness knew that it was a problem and that if the Democratic Party wanted to look legitimate again they’d have to take care of the superdelegate problem, and the clearest way to do that would be stripping superdelegates of their voting power. Democratic Party elites could go to the polls in their own states during the primary and cast their vote just like everyone else.

“One man, one vote” is the core principle of American democracy. But if superdelegates are a part of this process, you start getting “One man, one ten-thousandth of a superdelegate’s vote”.

But now a party rules committee decided to toss out a plan to strip superdelegates of their nominating power. In spite of strong grassroots opposition to these rules, any change of rules has to be endorsed by the Democratic National Committee. And wouldn’t you know it? It just so happens that all 447 members of the DNC are superdelegates! And they might not want their power stripped from them.

The result was a compromise, whereby superdelegates will keep their powers but will have their collective influence diluted from about 20 percent of voting delegates to about 15 percent. This has allowed the DNC to paper over the differences. “We’re proud of the work both the Democratic Change Commission and [the rules committee] have done to increase the overall impact and influence of the grassroots on the … nominating process,” the DNC press office replied by e-mail to a NEWSWEEK query. “Each took a different approach, but both took seriously the charge … to increase the power of the grassroots.”

Typical Democratic Party problem-solving. Rather than strip superdelegates of their inordinately disproportional voting power, just increase the number of normal delegates so that it’s slightly less disproportional than before. Now instead of having 20% of the say in who their party nominates to the rest of the country’s 80%, superdelegates will only have 15% to the rest of the country’s 85%. Now if they want to give the nomination to the losing candidate, the race will have to be slightly closer.

It’s a bit like reducing the crack-versus-powder-cocaine sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1.

And of course the Democratic Change Commission is so proud that they increased the power of the grassroots by a teeny tiny itty bitty little amount. Democratic “Change” indeed. That seems to be the pattern: “Look, we made things ever so slightly different than they were before—if you look really hard you might even notice some differences!”

To hell with the Democratic Party. We need a Progressive Party in this country that is powered entirely by the grassroots and dedicated to enacting real change. Today’s democrats can either join that party or become republicans, which many of them (for all practical purposes) already are.