Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Stimulus Plan Passed: Where Do We Go From Here?

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone reading this can spend some time amongst loved ones and be grateful for receiving love and support. 

After much wrangling, compromising and machinations, PBO has been declared the "winner" - at least for this round - against the obstructionists from both major parties who opposed the passage of the stimulus bill. Yes it does add more debt and that isn't a good thing. No it will not solve this economic crisis on its own. It's too soon to tell what benefits will be gained and how many people it ends up helping. Those unemployed will see an immediate relief with an extension of benefits and a slight increase. The National Endowment for the Arts has funding again after years of neglect. People who have enough funds to buy new cars and a home will see a discount. Students will get a few hundred extra out of the PELL grant finally. Tax credits abound (if you can wait an entire year more power to ya). 

I would've liked to have seen a provision specifically for renters getting emergency aid to cover payments for 1-2 months, particularly those facing evictions due to job losses without any repayment requirements. Here in California thanks to the idiot unqualified actor and the $42B debt we will be facing a state income tax increase as well as a sales tax increase. If you're on the lower economic end that adds up to a few thousand dollars per year so all those breaks from the federal stimulus plan just got knocked out. 

We know the President has other plans in the works to try to jump start the dead battery aka our economy, but we need a critical assessment of the overall picture and most of us have no clue. Not even the so-called experts. Last year the Fed stopped a run on the banks that would've wiped us out for good. This problem hasn't been resolved - let's be fair to #44 and know he won't be able to do anything about it permanently either - but PBO will be assigning an additional $2 trillion to the banks. Those banks aren't required to loan any money and as we know there was no oversight and nothing preventing them from doling out bonuses to the tune of $20B either. That salary cap is loosely worded in the stimulus package and really how is it going to be enforced? 

Here's the video from C-Span where Rep. Kanjorski, the Capital Markets Subcommitte Chair discusses how we're 2 hours away from collapse. Who cares about the Octo-Mom or the Grammys under these circumstances?

The problem is the continued generation of tax breaks and policies that create a class of the uber-wealthy minority at the expense of the masses which creates a majority of individuals whose incomes deteriorate while costs for necessities increase faster than can be replicated. It's the hedge fund manager pulling in $10M whose company will only pay an assistant $40K per year in a major city where rents may have jumped to $2000K per month. You might be educated and you might be working but you'll always be broke unless you can either earn more money, marry and get an additional income, take a second job or have your expenses lowered. That's a lot to ask of a person. Plus that manager has had their taxes lowered, has more loopholes available and is going to be catered to by the government no matter what. We're expected to believe we have "freedom" and unlimited choices but in real life application we are in a box with limited room for movement. 

The United States already is in the red for $50 trillion and counting so what's another few billions to the pile - although our current public debt is listed at "only" $10 trillion that's not counting EVERYTHING. All of the focus on the Republican turncoat who stepped aside from his Commerce Secretary nomination was a distraction. PBO needs to act like he's the friggin' President and stop trying to make friends out of those who've declared themselves enemies. It's very frustrating to watch these appointments bite the dust quite frankly - all reasonable arguments aside.  The next Census is very important and should never have been even hinted at being left in the hands of someone opposed to supporting business development by the non-whites in this country or wanting to thwart the correct allocation of districts.

The real focus should be on the Comptroller General and the Government Accountability Office. Yeah, I know it's hard to believe there is one. Seen any articles of the corporate media about this office? Me either. It's supposed to be the tax-payer's friend. Gene Dodaro may be the current position-holder but my eyes are on his predecessor David Walker who's been very vocal about the Fiscal State of the Union  for nearly 2 years and why we're still in deep doo-doo. Here's his interview with 60 Minutes from late 2007. I wish I'd been paying attention.

The other elephant in the room is whether PBO's other plans will be implemented and whether they'll be structured in a way that actually helps those that truly need it. When he caved so quickly to demands for tax breaks and gave a much higher percentage than what was absolutely necessary (see my renter not getting funds to stave off an eviction vs. homebuyer getting a discount) you can see where the priorities lay. A homebuyer is already entitled to certain additional tax breaks and could certainly do without the funds imo. It's a need vs. want scenario and since it's all borrowed money why not put it to its best usage?

Who are the real allies of Barack Obama? I keep asking on various political blogs and have yet to receive a definitive list. As I go down the list of his appointees, those he's added to his staff and his political "friends" I can't find any. Remember there are no permanent friends only permanent interests. So what happens when PBO's agendas are of no interest to those that can do him the most damage politically? I see people who were and would continue to be just fine without him. They were already established in their careers and/or have connections to other politicians/factions/governments. It seems he needs them more than than they do. 

Look at how some of his nominees have bitten the dust. The vetting process was weak. The BBC has an article questioning whether he was unlucky or naive? I have concerns and am not liking what I've seen so far. You can still be supportive of the President and be critical. Look at the voters and why they did - or didn't support his candidacy. I see declared enemies working at his right hand. Perhaps I just don't get it, but Bush ruled with an iron fist. Yeah he sounded dumb on tv, but the Republicans obeyed and the media followed. He was in charge. He didn't ask - he took. Cheney is scary. We saw the emergence of the Blue Dog Democrats who are really just Rethugs who infiltrated the opposition party to help it implode on itself. The biggest turncoat Lieberman has been allowed to keep all of his plum committee appointments. Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. All the enemies and obstructionists got rewarded. 

That's just messed up in my book under any circumstances. I still don't like it and it's causing a pit of apprehension just thinking about it. I wonder when the rug is going to pulled out from underneath us on all levels. I wonder if enough people are working together in a concerted effort to help level the playing field. Electing one person isn't enough. Now due to the vast economic upheaval many are in a fight for basic solvency which removes them from that particular battle. That may be the intention as this is a multi-tiered spiritual/political/personal war going on in this country and around the world. 

I am doing my best to be prepared but it requires a lot of effort and being vigilant. That's very tiring when all you want to do is celebrate symbolism and bask in the glow of hope. We can't afford to leave things to others to take care of for us. The alternative is to be left behind in the wake of another pending catastrophe that you weren't aware of but we can't claim ignorance of potential disasters anymore.   

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