Sunday, April 05, 2009

Patterns In The Week's Budgetary Votes?


Photograph from the Wouter DeRuytter Billboards series

There were several amendments offered before this week's budget vote was called-- and passed 233-196, all Republicans voting for obstructionism (even poor little Ahn Cao who again had his arm twisted to stick with the reactionaries). The Republicans were joined by a sad gaggle of mostly far right Blue Dogs like Barrow, Marshall, Bright, Griffith, Childers, Taylor, Kratovil, Minnick, Mitchell, etc. All the amendments failed. Wisconsin's rubber stamp zombie Paul Ryan offered the utterly unserious GOP "alternative," which no one could even discuss with a straight face. Not even a single Blue Dog voted for it and, worse yet, the iron grip of the party's obstructionist leaders was broken as 38 Republicans refused to lend their names to such obviously unworkable and pathetic trash. 38 Republicans-- from across the spectrum-- told Ryan, Canter and Boehner to grow up and crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats. Obviously all the sociopaths like Bachmann, Foxx, McHenry, Schmidt, McClintock, and Garrett stuck with Ryan. But among the Republicans who knew they could never face their constituents if they gave a thumbs up to Ryan's crassly political blueprint for Depression were Joe Barton, Michael Burgess and Ron Paul of Texas and loads of Republicans in districts that have been hardest hit by the exact Republican economic delusionary policies Bush promulgated and Ryan is proposing to continue-- especially members from Florida (Ginny Brown-Waite, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bilirakis the Younger, Vern Buchanan, Bill Young, Tom Rooney, and even lunatic-fringe reactionary Connie Mack!), Michigan (Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Upton and Candice Miller), Pennsylvania (Tim Murphy, Jim Gerlach, and Todd Platts), and Nevada (Dean Heller).

But while Ryan and his obstructionist cohorts were cooking up their childish games, members of the Progressive Caucus were offering far more serious alternatives to the Obama budget. 84 members voted for the progressive budget offered by Lynn Woolsey which proposed $469 billion more in non-military spending, the kind of stimulus spending that economists say will be needed if we're going to avoid a decade of Depression. "Savings come from eliminating Cold War era weapons systems, targeting waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon, military redeployment and military contractors out of Iraq, repeal of Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year, crackdown on corporate welfare and reinstating a quarter-cent tax (0.25%) on all stock transactions. Spending increases include health care for all Americans, cutting poverty in half in ten years, additional economic stimulus, increased Foreign Assistance, combating global warming and establishing energy independence, providing comprehensive education, and providing health care to veterans as an entitlement."

The second offering by the Progressive Caucus, Barbara Lee's amendment, garnered much more support-- 123 Democrats voting yes. The idea was "to build upon the historic investments made by the President's budget and the Majority's budget. However, the budget builds on these investments by immediately repealing the 2001 and 2003 Bush-era tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans. The budget also adds an extremely modest 0.565% surtax on adjustable gross income exceeding $500,000 for individuals ($1 million for joint filers). The budget shifts those savings and additional revenue towards Education, Health Care, Job Training, International Aid, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans, while still producing a five year deficit that is $67 billion smaller than the Majority's budget." Interestingly Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn and Democratic Policy Chair George Miller broke with Pelosi and Hoyer to vote yes on both amendments and on the Lee amendment most of the Democratic leadership joined them, including John Larson (CT), Rosa DeLauro (CT), and Chris Van Hollen (MD).

OK, the budget passed; the amendments and substitutes all failed. President Obama's got what he asked for. Now what? If Geithner is serious, and not just blowin' smoke, he'll follow through with noises he was making today about getting rid of the worst and most crooked of the banksters.
"If, in the future, banks need exceptional assistance in order to get through this, then we'll make sure that assistance comes with conditions, not just to protect the taxpayer but to make sure this is the kind of restructuring necessary for them to emerge stronger," he told Face the Nation on CBS. "And where that requires a change of management of the board, we'll do that."

The treasury chief said that is what has happened at some big institutions that are getting large amounts of government aid. They include the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were placed into conservatorship by the government last September, and insurer American International Group Inc., the recipient of more than $170 billion in help since last fall.

"We've already seen a substantial number of the largest banks in our country fail or be absorbed by other institutions, no longer existing at independent institutions. And where the government has acted, like in Fannie and Freddie or like in AIG, where we've had to do exceptional things to stabilize them, we have replaced the management and the board," Geithner said.

"And we've done that because we want to make sure that taxpayers' assistance is going to make these companies stronger, make sure there's accountability, make sure it comes with strong conditions. And we'll do that in the future if that is necessary," he added.

He went on, in answer to a question, to say that failed banks like Citibank and Bank of America could be restructured and new, more competent leadership brought in. This morning's Wall Street Journal is confirming my interpretation: banksters could be fired. Still, considering Geithner's background, instincts and behavior so far... I'll believe it when I see it.

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At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Jerry said...

"more competent leadership brought in"
Like, maybe even people competent enough to figure out TurboTax. You get funnier with every post.


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